IL-10-deficient (IL-10-/-) mice, generated by a gene-targeted mutation, develop abnormal immune responses as a result of uncontrolled interactions between antigen presenting cells and lymphocytes. The studies reviewed herein have focused on the enterocolitis that spontaneously develops in IL-10-/- mice. Not unexpectedly, heightened production of proinflammatory mediators accompanied pathologic changes in the gastrointestinal tract of young mutants. In a series of studies, the proinflammatory mediators responsible for initiating the pathogenic response were distinguished from those that were elicited as a consequence of persistent inflammation. We have also investigated the possibility that different mediators are involved in the inductive versus the maintenance phase of disease. The findings of these mechanistic studies as they relate to our understanding of progressive inflammatory disease and the role of IL-10 in controlling the acute and chronic stages are discussed.