This report examines the effects of recombinant murine interleukin-10 (rmIL-10) on antigen-induced beta-hexosaminidase, leukotriene (LT)C4 and cytokine release from mouse bone marrow-derived mast cells (BMMC). BMMC sensitized to hapten-monoclonal IgE directed against dinitrophenol-bovine serum albumin (DNP-BSA) and challenged with 10 ng/ml DNP-BSA generated beta-hexosaminidase and LTC4-like material which was followed by tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) and granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) mRNA expression and protein release. Incubation of BMMC with 1-100 ng/ml rmIL-10 inhibited cytokine generation, without affecting beta-hexosaminidase and LTC4-like material release. TNF-alpha, but not GM-CSF mRNA expression, was also diminished in rmIL-10-treated BMMC, suggesting that down-regulation of cytokine production by rmIL-10 involves different mechanisms. These results identify a novel biological action of IL-10 as an inhibitor of cytokine production by stimulated mast cells.