Two related human alpha interferons with 83% homology in their primary sequences show a similar specific activity on nonhuman cells, but a striking difference on human cells, on which alpha-1 shows 1-5% of the specific molar activity displayed by alpha-2. Both interferons were labelled with 125I, and their binding kinetics followed on growing cultures of the human Burkitt line Daudi. Binding of alpha-1 showed slower rates of association and faster rates of dissociation implying that differences in apparent binding affinity were responsible for the differences in specific molar activity. However, binding was shown to reach steady-state rather than an equilibrium, so differences in the dynamics of the ligand-receptor complexes may represent amplification of differences in the initial binding constant. alpha-2, but not alpha-1, induces a marked loss of binding sites leading to a high affinity steady-state binding. Inhibition of cell multiplication by both interferons depends on a continued stimulation by free ligands at steady-state. It is proposed that the differences in specific molar activity are, in the main, kinetic and cause alpha-1 and alpha-2 to behave respectively as "slow' and "fast' interferons.