IL-22 is produced by activated T cells and signals through a receptor complex consisting of IL-22R1 and IL-10R2. The aim of this study was to analyze IL-22 receptor expression, signal transduction, and specific biological functions of this cytokine system in intestinal epithelial cells (IEC). Expression studies were performed by RT-PCR. Signal transduction was analyzed by Western blot experiments, cell proliferation by 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-5-(3-carboxymethoxyphenyl)-2-(4-sulfophenyl)-2H-tetrazolium assay and Fas-induced apoptosis by flow cytometry. IEC migration was studied in wounding assays. The IEC lines Caco-2, DLD-1, SW480, HCT116, and HT-29 express both IL-22 receptor subunits IL-22R1 and IL-10R2. Stimulation with TNF-alpha, IL-1beta, and LPS significantly upregulated IL-22R1 without affecting IL-10R2 mRNA expression. IL-22 binding to its receptor complex activates STAT1/3, Akt, ERK1/2, and SAPK/JNK MAP kinases. IL-22 significantly increased cell proliferation (P = 0.002) and phosphatidylinsitol 3-kinase-dependent IEC cell migration (P < 0.00001) as well as mRNA expression of TNF-alpha, IL-8, and human beta-defensin-2. IL-22 had no effect on Fas-induced apoptosis. IL-22 mRNA expression was increased in inflamed colonic lesions of patients with Crohn's disease and correlated highly with the IL-8 expression in these lesions (r = 0.840). Moreover, IL-22 expression was increased in murine dextran sulfate sodium-induced colitis. IEC express functional receptors for IL-22, which increases the expression of proinflammatory cytokines and promotes the innate immune response by increased defensin expression. Moreover, our data indicate intestinal barrier functions for this cytokine-promoting IEC migration, which suggests an important function in intestinal inflammation and wound healing. IL-22 is increased in active Crohn's disease and promotes proinflammatory gene expression and IEC migration.