Interleukin 4 (IL 4)-induced IgE production by peripheral blood lymphocytes and tonsil cells from normal donors was enhanced in a dose-dependent fashion by IL 5. IL 5 tested alone was not effective. The synergistic effects of IL 5 were most pronounced at suboptimal IL 4 concentrations, whereas at saturating IL 4 concentrations (200-300 U/ml), IL 5 had no effect. Interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) and F(ab')2 fragments of monoclonal antibody 25 directed against the CD23 antigen, that blocked IL 4-induced IgE synthesis, also inhibited the production of IgE in the presence of combinations of IL 4 and IL 5, indicating that IL 5 potentiates the activation pathway through which IL 4 induces IgE production. In contrast, IL 4 (50 U/ml) blocked IL 5-induced IgA synthesis. IL 5 was ineffective in inducing the release of soluble CD23 (sCD23), but in the presence of IL 4 an enhanced release of sCD23 was observed, provided IL 4 was present at suboptimal concentrations. IFN-gamma completely blocked sCD23 release induced by IL 4 and IL 5. These results demonstrate that there is a strong quantitative correlation between sCD23 release and induction of IgE synthesis. sCD23 fraction-correlation between sCD23 release and induction of IgE synthesis. sCD23 fractionated from the Epstein-Barr virus-transformed B cell line RPMI 8866 was ineffective in inducing IgE production. However, sCD23 acted synergistically with suboptimal concentrations of IL 4. sCD23 did not modulate the IgE response at saturating concentrations of IL 4. Collectively, these data indicate that sCD23 plays an important regulatory role in the modulation of IL 4-induced IgE synthesis mediated by IFN-gamma and IL 5.