The interleukin (IL)-27 receptor-alpha WSX-1 is one component of the heterodimeric IL-27 receptor that is expressed on various cell types including macrophages. We previously demonstrated that IL-27 induces STAT-3 and is able to inhibit the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines in activated macrophages suggesting a novel feed-back mechanism by which IL-27 can modulate excessive inflammation. Because IL-4 receptor-alpha (IL-4Rα)-induced alternatively activated macrophages have also been described to attenuate pathological inflammatory immune responses, we analyzed the contribution of IL-27 in alternative macrophage activation. In the present study, like IL-10 and IL-4, IL-27 was found to suppress IL-12/23p40 production in activated bone marrow-derived macrophages. Whereas IL-10 induced the upregulation of the IL-4Rα on macrophages, receptor expression was not triggered by IL-27. In contrast to IL-4, IL-27 did not induce alternative macrophage activation but IL-4 strongly upregulated the expression of WSX-1 on macrophages and alternative macrophage activation enhanced IL-27-mediated signalling. We therefore conclude from our study that IL-10, IL-4 and IL-27 collaborate in modulating macrophage activation by successive upregulation of the IL-4Rα and WSX-1 on alternatively activated macrophages.