The relationship between the cellular internalization of an anti-ganglioside GD2 monoclonal antibody (14.G2a) and the toxic effect of its ricin A-chain immunotoxin (14.G2a-RA) was examined on GD2-bearing M21 human melanoma and T293 small cell lung carcinoma cell lines. The capacity for ligand uptake was determined by examining the parameters that contribute to this constant, including the number of cell-surface binding sites and the internalization rate constant (ke). The maximum uptake of 14.G2a is 11-fold greater for M21 than for T293 cells, due to a 2.7-fold difference in binding sites and a 4-fold difference in the rate of antibody internalization. The capacity for ligand uptake correlates with the cytotoxic activity of the 14.G2a-RA immunotoxin against these two cell lines. Furthermore, we were able to demonstrate that the consequence of internalization of 14.G2a-RA is the intracellular release of undegraded ricin A-chain from the antibody. These studies indicate that the rate of internalization is a quantitative parameter that plays a key role in predicting the cytotoxic potency of this immunotoxin.