IL-10: the master regulator of immunity to infection

J Immunol. 2008 May 1;180(9):5771-7. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.180.9.5771.


IL-10 is an anti-inflammatory cytokine. During infection it inhibits the activity of Th1 cells, NK cells, and macrophages, all of which are required for optimal pathogen clearance but also contribute to tissue damage. In consequence, IL-10 can both impede pathogen clearance and ameliorate immunopathology. Many different types of cells can produce IL-10, with the major source of IL-10 varying in different tissues or during acute or chronic stages of the same infection. The priming of these various IL-10-producing populations during infections is not well understood and it is not clear whether the cellular source of IL-10 during infection dictates its cellular target and thus its outcome. In this article we review the biology of IL-10, its cellular sources, and its role in viral, bacterial, and protozoal infections.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacterial Infections / immunology*
  • Bacterial Infections / pathology
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-10 / immunology*
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology
  • Killer Cells, Natural / pathology
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Macrophages / pathology
  • Organ Specificity / immunology
  • Protozoan Infections / immunology*
  • Protozoan Infections / pathology
  • Th1 Cells / immunology
  • Th1 Cells / pathology
  • Virus Diseases / immunology*
  • Virus Diseases / pathology


  • Interleukin-10