Anti-Tac(Fv)-PE40 is a recombinant single-chain immunotoxin composed of the variable domains of the monoclonal antibody anti-Tac, which binds to the p55 subunit of the interleukin-2 receptor (IL-2R), and a truncated form of Pseudomonas exotoxin (PE), which does not bind to the PE receptor (Chaudhary et al, Nature 339:394, 1989). Whereas its cytotoxic activity toward autoimmune and malignant target cells has been established, its efficacy in vivo remains unknown. To establish an animal model, we produced ATAC-4 cells by transfecting the gene encoding the low-affinity IL-2R (p55) into A431 epidermoid carcinoma cells. ATAC-4 cells contained low-affinity IL-2Rs (2 x 10(5)/cell) and formed tumors in nude mice. In tissue culture, protein synthesis in ATAC-4 cells was inhibited 50% (IC50) at 0.06 ng/mL (0.9 pmol/L) of anti-Tac(Fv)-PE40. IC50s for the derivatives anti-Tac(Fv)-PE38, which is missing PE amino acids 365–380, and anti-Tac(Fv)-PE38KDEL, which contains the same deletion plus the KDEL carboxyl terminus, were 0.04 and 0.025 ng/mL, respectively. All the agents produced complete tumor regressions in ATAC-4 tumor-bearing mice and anti-Tac(Fv)-PE38KDEL had significant antitumor activity at 1% of the LD50. The dose limiting toxicity of anti-Tac(Fv)-PE38KDEL was from hemorrhagic liver necrosis, which was observed at approximately 55% of the LD50.