Complementary DNA encoding interleukin-2 (IL-2) was isolated, cloned, and sequenced from the killer whale, Orcinus orca. The sequence of the killer whale IL-2 coding region consists of 455 nucleotides which translate into a polypeptide containing 151 amino acids. Killer whale IL-2 displays 88%, 88%, 87%, 87%, 85%, 84%, 80%, and 71% nucleotide sequence homology and 76%, 76%, 76%, 73%, 68%, 73%, 64%, and 56% amino acid homology with the cow, sheep, pig, red deer, horse, human, manatee, and mouse, respectively. High levels of killer whale recombinant IL-2 were generated by transiently transfecting killer whale IL-2/pCMV Blue plasmid DNA into cultured monkey kidney cells (Cos-1). Generation of this recombinant IL-2 will allow the development of assays useful for assessing IL-2 levels in the serum and from isolated lymphocytes of killer whales and possibly other species of cetaceans. A major contribution and significance of the in vitro expression of killer whale IL-2 exists in its potential to be used as a therapeutic agent.