Interleukin (IL)-10 is a pleiotropic cytokine which inhibits a broad array of immune parameters including T helper cell type 1 (Th1) cytokine production, antigen presentation, and antigen-specific T cell proliferation. To understand the consequences of altered expression of IL-10 in immune models of autoimmune disease, the response to infectious agents, and the response to tumors, we developed transgenic mice expressing IL-10 under the control of the IL-2 promoter. Upon in vitro stimulation, spleen cells from unimmunized transgenic mice secrete higher levels of IL-10 and lower amounts of IFN-gamma than do controls, although no gross abnormalities were detected in lymphocyte populations or serum Ig levels. Transfer of normally pathogenic CD4(+) CD45RBhigh splenic T cells from IL-10 transgenic mice did not cause colitis in recipient severe combined immunodeficiency mice. Furthermore, co-transfer of these transgenic cells with CD4(+) CD45RBhigh T cells from control mice prevented disease. Transgenic mice retained their resistance to Leishmania major infection, indicating that their cell-mediated immune responses were not globally suppressed. Lastly, in comparison to controls, IL-10 transgenic mice were unable to limit the growth of immunogenic tumors. Administration of blocking IL-10 mAbs restored in vivo antitumor responses in the transgenic mice. These results demonstrate that a single alteration in the T cell cytokine profile can lead to dramatic changes in immune responses in a manner that is stimulus dependent. These mice will be useful in defining differences in inflammatory conditions and cellular immunity mediated by IL-10.
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