Basophils express major histocompatibility complex class II, CD80 and CD86 and produce interleukin 4 (IL-4) in various conditions. Here we show that when incubated with IL-3 and antigen or complexes of antigen and immunoglobulin E (IgE), basophils internalized, processed and presented antigen as complexes of peptide and major histocompatibility complex class II and produced IL-4. Intravenous administration of ovalbumin-pulsed basophils into naive mice 'preferentially' induced the development of naive ovalbumin-specific CD4+ T cells into T helper type 2 (T(H)2) cells. Mice immunized in this way, when challenged by intravenous administration of ovalbumin, promptly produced ovalbumin-specific IgG1 and IgE. Finally, intravenous administration of IgE complexes rapidly induced T(H)2 cells only in the presence of endogenous basophils, which suggests that basophils are potent antigen-presenting cells that 'preferentially' augment T(H)2-IgE responses by capturing IgE complex.