A novel formulation of cationic liposomes containing the novel cytofectin ACHx was used for delivery of an anti-inflammatory cytokine gene, IL-10, to mice with established collagen induced arthritis. A single intraperitoneal injection of human IL-10 expression plasmid complexed with liposomes 2 to 4 days after the onset of arthritis was sufficient to give significant and prolonged amelioration of arthritis for 30 days. Preliminary experiments suggested that the therapeutic effect was IL-10 dose-dependent. The distribution of the human IL-10 DNA after injection was widespread, including the inflamed paws. Human IL-10 mRNA was also detected in the paws 24 h after injection. IL-10 protein was below the level of detection in paws and serum but was detected in some tissues up to 10 days after injection. The target cell of transfection was demonstrated to be the macrophage. These results suggest that systemic therapy with plasmid DNA complexed with cationic liposomes merits further development as an alternative method for anti-inflammatory treatment of arthritis.