Interleukin (IL)-23 is a heterodimeric cytokine consisting of a novel p19 molecule and the p40 subunit of IL-12. Since secreted p40 can act as an antagonist for IL-12, we investigated whether p40 also inhibited IL-23-mediated immunological functions. p40 did not induce interferon (IFN)-gamma or IL-17 production from splenocytes but impaired IL-23-induced cytokine production by competitive binding to the IL-23 receptors. Furthermore, a mixed population of murine colon carcinoma Colon 26 cells transduced with the p40 gene and those transduced with the IL-23 gene developed tumours in syngenic mice, whereas the IL-23-expressing Colon 26 cells were completely rejected. p40 also suppressed IFN-gamma production of antigen-stimulated splenocytes and IL-23-mediated cytotoxic T-lymphocyte activities in the mice that rejected Colon 26 cells expressing IL-23. p40 can thereby antagonize IL-23 and is a possible therapeutic agent for suppression of IL-23 functions.