Cytokine regulation of endocytic activity in primary human macrophages was studied to define ultrastructural changes and mechanisms of pinocytic regulation associated with cytokines secreted by activated T cells. The effects of IFN-gamma (type 1) and IL-4/IL-13 and IL-10 (type 2) cytokines on fluid phase and mannose receptor-mediated endocytosis were assessed by horseradish peroxidase and colloidal gold-BSA uptake and computer-assisted morphometric analysis. IL-4 and IL-13 enhanced fluid phase pinocytosis and mannose receptor-mediated uptake by activation of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase. Inhibition of actin assembly showed that both cytokines exerted actin-dependent and -independent effects. Ultrastructurally, IL-4 and IL-13 increased tubular vesicle formation underneath the plasma membrane and at pericentriolar sites, concurrent with decreased particle sorting to lysosomes. By contrast, IL-10 or IFN-gamma decreased both fluid phase pinocytosis and mannose receptor-mediated uptake. IFN-gamma stimulated increased particle sorting to perinuclear lysosomes, while IL-10 decreased this activity. In summary, our data document differential effects on macrophage endocytic functions by type 1 or type 2 cytokines associated with induction and effector pathways in immunity.