The light and the dark sides of Interleukin-10 in immune-mediated diseases and cancer

Cytokine Growth Factor Rev. 2016 Aug;30:87-93. doi: 10.1016/j.cytogfr.2016.02.003. Epub 2016 Mar 8.


Interleukin-10 (IL-10) is known to be a tolerogenic cytokine since it inhibits pro-inflammatory cytokine production and T cell stimulatory capacities of myeloid cells, such as macrophages and dendritic cells. In particular, it has a non-redundant tolerogenic role in intestinal immune homeostasis, since mice and patients with genetic defects in the IL-10/IL-10R pathway develop spontaneously colitis in the presence of a normal intestinal flora. However, IL-10 is also a growth and differentiation factor for B-cells, can promote autoantibody production and has consequently a pathogenic role in systemic lupus erythematosus. Moreover, IL-10 can promote cytotoxic T-cell (CTL) responses and this immunogenic activity might be relevant in type-1 diabetes and anti-tumor immune responses. This review summarizes these paradoxic effects of IL-10 on different types of immune responses, and proposes that different cellular sources of IL-10, in particular IL-10-secreting helper and regulatory T-cells, have different effects on B-cell and CTL responses. Based on this concept we discuss the rationales for targeting the IL-10 pathway in immune-mediated diseases and cancer.

Keywords: Cancer; Colitis; Interleukin-10; Systemic lupus erythematosus; T-cells.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-10 / immunology*
  • Intestines / immunology
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology


  • Interleukin-10