One single intra-venous (i.v.) injection of Concanavalin A (Con A) into mice provokes a cell-mediated immunoinflammatory hepatitis. We have presently evaluated the immunopharmacological effects of exogenous interleukin (IL)-10 and the role of endogenous IL-10 in this model by using exogenous IL-10, anti-IL-10 monoclonal antibody (mAb) and mice with disrupted IL-10 gene (IL-10 KO mice). Whilst exogenous IL-10 administered in a prophylactic (1 h prior to Con A) and even "early" therapeutic fashion (30 min after Con A) reduced the elevation of transaminase activities in plasma in a dose-dependent manner, observed in control mice, these biochemical markers of liver injury were significantly increased both in IL-10 KO mice as well as in those receiving anti-IL-10 mAb. Interestingly, doses of Con A lower than 20 mg/kg that were only capable of inducing slight serological signs of hepatitis in mice, exerted marked hepatitic effects when administered to either anti-IL-10 mAb-treated mice or to IL-10 KO mice. The disease modulating effects of exogenous IL-10 and either genetical or pharmacologically-induced IL-10 deficiency were associated with profound and opposite modifications of the Con A-induced increase in the circulating levels of IFN-gamma and TNF-alpha. Relative to control animals, the blood levels of these cytokines were diminished in IL-10-treated mice and augmented in both IL-10 KO mice and anti-IL-10 mAb-treated mice. These results prove the physiological antiinflammatory role of endogenous IL-10 in Con A induced hepatitis and the beneficial effects of IL-10 treatment to prevent this condition.