While it is well appreciated that receptors for secreted cytokines transmit ligand-induced signals, little is known about additional roles for cytokine receptor components in the control of ligand transport and secretion. Here, we show that interleukin-15 (IL-15) translocation into the endoplasmic reticulum occurs independently of the presence of IL-15 receptor α (IL-15Rα). Subsequently, however, IL-15 is transported through the Golgi apparatus only in association with IL-15Rα and then is secreted. This intracellular IL-15/IL-15Rα complex already is formed in the endoplasmic reticulum and, thus, enables the further trafficking of complexed IL-15 through the secretory pathway. Just transfecting IL-15Rα in cells, which transcribe but normally do not secrete IL-15, suffices to induce IL-15 secretion. Thus, we provide the first evidence of how a cytokine is chaperoned through the secretory pathway by complexing with its own high-affinity receptor and show that IL-15/IL-15Rα offers an excellent model system for the further exploration of this novel mechanism for the control of cytokine secretion. Copyright © 2008, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.