IL-10 gene transcription and IL-10 protein production was assessed in both type 1 (Th1) and type 2 (Th2) CD4+ human T cell clones by polymerase chain reaction and ELISA, respectively. Although Th2 clones apparently showed higher IL-10 mRNA levels, IL-10 mRNA expression was consistently found in Th1 clones, as well. Likewise, measurable IL-10 levels were found in the supernatants of both Th1 and Th2 clones. The effect of human IL-10 (h-IL-10) and viral IL-10 (v-IL-10) on the proliferative response and cytokine production by Th1 and Th2 human clones was also investigated. Addition in culture of h-IL-10 and v-IL-10 significantly reduced the proliferation of both Th1 and Th2 clones in response to the specific Ag and to PHA, but it had no inhibitory effect on the proliferative response of Th1 and Th2 clones to IL-2. h-IL-10 and v-IL-10 also inhibited the Ag-induced production of gamma-interferon (IFN-gamma) by Th1 clones and the production of IL-4 and IL-5 by Th2 clones, whereas they had no effect on the cytokine synthesis by the same clones stimulated with PMA plus anti-CD3 antibody. Preincubation of APC, but not of clonal T blasts, with h-IL-10 resulted in the inhibition of Ag-induced proliferation of both Th1 and Th2 clones, supporting the view that h-IL-10 primarily affects APC. These data demonstrate that, unlike the murine system where IL-10 is a product of Th2 (but not Th1) cells and seems to mainly down-regulate the Th1 response, in the human system, IL-10 is produced by, and down-regulates the function of, both Th1 and Th2 cells.