Stably transfected HEK-293 cells express on their surface the murine type II IL-1 receptor (mIL-1RII) as demonstrated by FACS analysis using the mAb 4E2, however binding of [125I]-hrIL-1beta to these cells is nearly absent. Saturable high affinity binding of [125I]-hrIL-1beta is observed when the murine IL-1 receptor accessory protein (mIL-1RAcP) is coexpressed with mIL-1RII. Binding of [125I]-hrIL-1beta to mIL-1RII-mIL-1RAcP complex can be inhibited either with antibodies to mIL-1RII (mAb 4E2), or by antibodies to mIL-1RAcP (mAb 4C5). The number of high affinity binding sites in cells stably transfected with the cDNA for mIL-1RII is dependent on the dose of cDNA for mIL-1RAcP used to transfect the cells. The high affinity complex between mIL-1RII and mIL-1RAcP is not preformed by interaction between the intracellular domains of these two transmembrane proteins, rather it appears to require the extracellular portions of mIL-1RII and mIL-1RAcP and the presence of a ligand. We suggest that in addition to its earlier described decoy receptor role, IL-1RII may modulate the responsiveness of cells to IL-1 by binding the IL-1RAcP in unproductive/non-signalling complexes and thus reducing the number of signalling IL-1RI-IL-1RAcP-agonist complexes when IL-1 is bound.