Hijacking and exploitation of IL-10 by intracellular pathogens

Trends Microbiol. 2001 Feb;9(2):86-92. doi: 10.1016/s0966-842x(00)01919-3.


Macrophages play a central role in infections, as a target for pathogens and in activation of the immune system. Interleukin-10 (IL-10), a cytokine produced by macrophages, is a potent immunosuppressive factor. Some intracellular pathogens specifically target macrophages for infection and use IL-10 to dampen the host immune response and stall their elimination from the host. Certain viruses induce production of cellular IL-10 by macrophages, whereas other viruses encode their own viral IL-10 homologs. Additionally, specific bacteria, including several Mycobacteria spp. and Listeria monocytogenes, can survive and replicate in macrophages while inducing cellular IL-10, highlighting a potential role for IL-10 of macrophage origin in the immunosuppressive etiology of these pathogens. Thus, the exploitation of IL-10 appears to be a common mechanism of immunosuppression by a diverse group of intracellular pathogens that can infect macrophages.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cytomegalovirus / immunology*
  • Cytomegalovirus Infections / immunology
  • Cytomegalovirus Infections / virology
  • HIV Infections / immunology
  • HIV-1 / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance*
  • Interleukin-10 / biosynthesis*
  • Interleukin-10 / immunology
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Macrophages / microbiology*
  • Macrophages / virology*
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / immunology*
  • Tuberculosis / immunology
  • Tuberculosis / microbiology


  • Interleukin-10