In this study, we analyzed the effect of interleukin-10 (IL-10) on the primary allogeneic T cell response induced by human Langerhans cells (LC), the dendritic cells from epidermis. We showed that IL-10 strongly inhibited the T cell response, provided it was added at the beginning of the mixed epidermal cell lymphocyte reaction (MELR). Proliferation of both CD4+ and CD8+ T cell subsets was affected by the cytokine. An inhibitory effect of IL-10 on human LC allostimulatory function was evidenced by the fact that IL-10-preincubated LC, but not IL-10-preincubated T cells, can display inhibitory effect. LC treatment with IL-10 partially inhibited the increase of HLA-DR expression on cultured LC as the percentage of highly positive HLA-DR cells was lower than that observed in the absence of the cytokine. IL-10 inhibited T cell alloreaction induced by 2-day-cultured human LC which constitutively display high levels of HLA class II, as well as ICAM-1 and LFA-3 antigens. This suggests that the suppressive effect of the cytokine was not merely related to an impaired up-regulation of these molecules. Addition of IL-1 during the MELR potentiated the allogeneic T cell proliferation and could reverse, at least partly, the inhibitory effect of IL-10. Collectively, these data indicate that IL-10 can prevent the alloreaction induced by human dendritic cells, providing new insights into the potential clinical use of this cytokine.