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This paper presents a detailed study of the waveguide and plasmon polariton properties of four-layer systems involving highly doped semiconductor material. The dispersion relations of waveguide and plasmon polariton modes are calculated for different geometrical parameters and material properties. Special attention is paid to the transition region between the latter modes, which exhibits a complex behavior. Slab plasmon polaritons at wavelengths slightly larger than the plasma wavelength, yielding a positive real part of the permittivity, have been found. Finally, applications at wavelengths near the transition region and near the plasma wavelength are proposed and discussed. © 1997 American Institute of Physics.