The host response to Leishmania infection is regulated by a specific pattern of local cytokine production. We investigated the effect of interleukin (IL)-10 and IL-4 on the leishmanicidal activity of human macrophages (M phi). As with L. major, intracellular killing of L. infantum by human M phi was obtained following ligation of surface CD23 or cell treatment with interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma). This leishmanicidal activity required nitric oxide (NO) generation by activated M phi, and it was partially mimicked by cell treatment with chemical NO donors. Addition of recombinant human IL-10 or IL-4 to CD23 mAb or IFN-gamma decreased L. infantum and L. major killing by infected M phi. IL-10 was more potent than IL-4 in inhibiting the leishmanicidal activity of human M phi. Inhibition of Leishmania killing by IL-4 and IL-10 correlated with decreased NO generation from M phi, and was reversed when exogenous NO was added to cell cultures. Therefore, IL-10 and IL-4 down-regulate leishmanicidal activity of human M phi, in part by inhibiting NO generation by these cells.