Adenosine has been implicated in suppressing the proinflammatory responses of classically activated macrophages induced by Th1 cytokines. Alternative macrophage activation is induced by the Th2 cytokines interleukin (IL)-4 and IL-13; however, the role of adenosine in governing alternative macrophage activation is unknown. We show here that adenosine treatment of IL-4- or IL-13-activated macrophages augments the expression of alternative macrophage markers arginase-1, tissue inhibitor of matrix metalloproteinase-1 (TIMP-1), and macrophage galactose-type C-type lectin-1. The stimulatory effect of adenosine required primarily A(2B) receptors because the nonselective adenosine receptor agonist 5'-N-ethylcarboxamidoadenosine (NECA) increased both arginase activity (EC(50)=261.8 nM) and TIMP-1 production (EC(50)=80.67 nM), and both pharmacologic and genetic blockade of A(2B) receptors prevented the effect of NECA. A(2A) receptors also contributed to the adenosine augmentation of IL-4-induced TIMP-1 release, as both adenosine and NECA were less efficacious in augmenting TIMP-1 release by A(2A) receptor-deficient than control macrophages. Of the transcription factors known to drive alternative macrophage activation, CCAAT-enhancer-binding protein β was required, while cAMP response element-binding protein and signal transducer and activator of transcription 6 were dispensable in mediating the effect of adenosine. We propose that adenosine receptor activation suppresses inflammation and promotes tissue restitution, in part, by promoting alternative macrophage activation.