Human interleukin-22 (IL-22), a cytokine with structural homology to IL-10, is produced by activated T cells. The IL-22 receptor complex consists of a ligand-binding chain, the IL-22R1 and a signal-transducing chain, the IL-10R2. The aim of this study is to identify potential target cells and associated biological activity of IL-22 by identifying cell types that specifically express high levels of IL-22R1 as the expression of IL-10R2 is ubiquitous. Expression of IL-22R1 mRNA, as analyzed by real time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR), was observed in human tumor cell lines of stromal or epithelial origin derived from liver, pancreas, colon and lung tissue. Furthermore, we examined the ability of IL-22 to activate the JAK-Signal Transducer and Activator of Transcription (STAT) pathway in epithelial cells of the colon. IL-22 induced the phosphorylation of STAT1 and STAT3 in Colo205, a colon epithelial cell line. Consequently, IL-22 upregulated mRNA for Suppressor of Cytokine Signaling 3 (SOCS3), a STAT3-responsive gene. Further analyses, by real time quantitative PCR, on a panel of chemokines and immune function related genes revealed that IL-22 induced expression of the acute phase proteins alpha-Antichymotrypsin and Serum Amyloid A, as well as IL-10 mRNA and protein production by Colo205. Induction of IL-10 by IL-22, in Colo205 cells, could be inhibited in the presence of a neutralizing antibody against IL-10R2. IL-22-mediated effects on the Colo205 cells were also inhibited in the presence of IL-22 binding protein (IL-22BP), a soluble receptor with structural similarity to IL-22R1. The high levels of expression of IL-22R1 observed in epithelial cells of the colon and the ability of IL-22 to upregulate production of acute phase proteins and IL-10 in Colo205 cells, suggest a functional role for IL-22 in intestinal inflammation.