ABSTRACT: Multisubunit cytokine receptors such as the heterotrimeric receptor for interleukin-2 (IL-2) are ubiquitous in hematopoeitic cell types of importance in biotechnology and are crucial regulators of cell proliferation and differentiation behavior. Dynamics of cytokine/receptor endocytic trafficking can significantly impact cell responses through effects of receptor down-regulation and ligand depletion, and in turn are governed by ligand/receptor binding properties. We describe here a computational model for trafficking dynamics of the IL-2 receptor (IL-2R) system, which is able to predict T cell proliferation responses to IL-2. This model comprises kinetic equations describing binding, internalization, and postendocytic sorting of IL-2 and IL-2R, including an experimentally derived dependence of cell proliferation rate on these properties. Computational results from this model predict that IL-2 depletion can be reduced by decreasing its binding affinity for the IL-2R betagamma subunit relative to the alpha subunit at endosomal pH, as a result of enhanced ligand sorting to recycling vis-a-vis degradation, and that an IL-2 analogue with such altered binding properties should exhibit increased potency for stimulating the T cell proliferation response. These results are in agreement with our recent experimental findings for the IL-2 analogue termed 2D1 [Fallon, E. M. et al. J. Biol. Chem. 2000, 275, 6790-6797]. Thus, this type of model may enable prediction of beneficial cytokine/receptor binding properties to aid development of molecular design criteria for improvements in applications such as in vivo cytokine therapies and in vitro hematopoietic cell bioreactors.