- BACKGROUND & AIMS: We previously described a system for enhanced transepithelial transport of antigen in which both the amount of specific antigen and its rate of transport were dramatically increased in intestine of sensitized rats compared with controls. This study investigated the essential components mediating antigen uptake in mice genetically deficient for interleukin (IL)-4 or CD23. METHODS: Mice were actively or passively sensitized to horseradish peroxidase (HRP). Jejunal segments from control or sensitized mice were mounted in Ussing chambers and challenged with HRP from the luminal side. Tissues were processed for electron microscopy, and photomicrographs were analyzed for antigen uptake (location and area of HRP-containing endosomes). Immunohistochemistry and reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction were used to detect epithelial CD23 expression. RESULTS: Actively sensitized IL-4(+/+), but not IL-4(-/-) mice, displayed increased transepithelial antigen transport and CD23 expression on enterocytes. Passively sensitized IL-4(+/+) and IL-4(-/-) mice displayed elevated antigen transport after transfer of immune serum but not if the serum was depleted of immunoglobulin (Ig) E or IL-4. IL-4 added to cultured IEC-4 cells up-regulated expression of CD23 messenger RNA. The augmented antigen uptake was inhibited by anti-CD23 and was absent in sensitized CD23(-/-) mice. CONCLUSIONS: Our studies indicate that IL-4 regulates IgE/CD23-mediated enhanced transepithelial antigen transport in sensitized mouse intestine.