This study analyzed IL-23p19 expression in inflamed mucosa of IBD and the role in the induction of IEL and NK cell activation as well as Th17 cell differentiation. Expression of IL-23p19 was performed by immunohistochemistry and quantitative real-time PCR. Expression of IL-23R was assessed by flow cytometry. Cytolytic activities of IEL and NK cells by IL-23 were determined by a standard (51)Cr-release assay. Cytokine levels were analyzed by ELISA and quantitative real-time PCR. Expression of IL-23p19 was increased significantly in inflamed mucosa of CD compared with that in UC and healthy controls. Double-staining confirmed that IL-23p19(+) cells were mainly CD68(+) macrophages/DCs. IL-23R(+) cells were increased significantly in PB- and LP-CD4(+) and -CD8(+) T and NK cells. IL-23 markedly promoted IBD IEL and NK cell activation and cytotoxicity and triggered IBD PB- and LP-T cells to secrete significantly higher levels of IFN-γ, TNF, IL-2, and IL-17A compared with controls. Importantly, IL-23 promoted IBD PB- or LP-CD4(+) T cells to differentiate into Th17 cells, characterized by increased expression of IL-17A and RORC. Anti-TNF treatment could markedly reduce IL-23 expression and Th17 cell infiltration in inflamed mucosa of CD patients. These data indicate that IL-23 is highly expressed in inflamed mucosa of IBD and plays an important role in the induction of IEL, NK, and T cell activation, proinflammatory cytokine secretion, and Th17 cell differentiation. Targeted therapy directed against IL-23p19 may have a therapeutic role in treatment of IBD.