The role of IL-10 in the pathogenesis of autoimmune diabetes mellitus was assessed in the nonobese diabetic (NOD) mouse. In these studies the effect of IL-10 was determined on three parameters of diabetes: The development of hyperglycemia, the development of insulitis, and the production of insulin by beta cells. Initial experiments investigated the effect of anticytokine antibodies on the development of disease. These results indicated that monoclonal anti-IFN-gamma antibody greatly reduced the incidence of hyperglycemia in female NOD mice, while anti-IL-4, IL-5, and IL-10 were ineffective. In subsequent studies, daily subcutaneous administration of IL-10, a known potent inhibitor of IFN-gamma production by TH1 T cells, to 9 and 10-week-old NODs was shown to delay the onset of disease and significantly reduce the incidence of diabetes. Histopathology performed on pancreatic tissue demonstrated that treatment with IL-10 reduced the severity of insulitis, prevented cellular infiltration of islet cells, and promoted normal insulin production by beta cells. Taken together these results indicate IL-10 suppresses the induction and progression of autoimmune pathogenesis associated with diabetes mellitus and suggest a potential therapeutic role for this cytokine in this autoimmune disease.