Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) and bronchiolitis obliterans with organizing pneumonia (BOOP) are interstitial lung diseases of unknown pathogenesis. Alveolar macrophages play a major role in the regulation of the inflammatory response in these diseases through their ability to produce cytokines that modify the inflammatory response. Tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) and interleukin-10 (IL-10) exhibit proinflammatory and anti-inflammatory actions, respectively, and thus an imbalance in the expression of these cytokines may contribute to the pathogenesis of IPF and BOOP. Therefore, we quantified IL-10 and TNF-alpha mRNA levels in alveolar macrophages obtained by bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) from patients with IPF and BOOP and in normal healthy volunteers. The level of TNF-alpha mRNA in macrophages obtained from IPF and BOOP patients was not significantly different from normal healthy subjects. However, macrophages from patients with IPF and BOOP expressed increased levels of IL-10 mRNA compared with healthy controls. In addition, stimulation of alveolar macrophages with lipopolysaccharide in the presence of a neutralizing anti-IL-10 antibody augmented the production of TNF-alpha over that seen in the absence of anti-IL-10 antibody, suggesting that the increased expression of IL-10 by alveolar macrophages may act to control the expression of TNF-alpha. Paradoxically, measurement of IL-10 protein in cell-free BAL fluid revealed lower amounts of the protein in patients with IPF and BOOP compared with healthy controls.