Interleukin-17-producing CD4(+) T cells (Th17 cells) are the dominant pathogenic cellular component in autoimmune inflammatory diseases, including autoimmune arthritis. IL-10 promotes the generation of Foxp3(+) regulatory T cells via the IL-10 receptor signal. The objective of this study was to examine whether IL-10, which acts as an anti-inflammatory cytokine, has a suppressive effect on the activation of human Th17 cells. Expression of IL-17 and IL-10 was examined immunohistochemically in tissue obtained from rheumatoid arthritis patients. Human peripheral blood CD4(+) T cells were isolated and cultured under various stimulatory conditions. Th17 cells and regulatory T (Treg) cells were detected by flow cytometry. The gene expression of related cytokines and transcription factors were assessed by ELISA and RT-PCR. IL-17 was overexpressed in rheumatoid arthritis patients. IL-10 treatment significantly decreased the numbers of IL-17-producing and RORc-expressing cells among human CD4(+) T cells that had been activated in vitro by Th17-differentiating conditions in autoimmune arthritis patients. IL-10 induced Foxp3(+) regulatory T cells in the human CD4(+) T cell population. Our results demonstrate that IL-17 is overexpressed in autoimmune disease patients and that IL-10 suppresses IL-17 expression. IL-10 may be useful in the treatment of autoimmune diseases.