We investigated the in vivo effects of cyclosporin A (CsA) on the production of interleukin (IL) 10, a cytokine with major immunosuppressive properties. To elicit IL-10 production in vivo, BALB/c mice were injected either with the anti-mouse CD3 145-2C11 monoclonal antibody (mAb) (25 micrograms) or with bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) (20 micrograms). A systemic release of IL-10 was observed in both models, IL-10 serum levels reaching 1.60 +/- 0.32 U/ml (mean +/- SEM) and 0.67 +/- 0.09 U/ml 6 h after injection of 145-2C11 mAb and LPS, respectively. Experiments in nude mice indicated that T cells are involved in the induction of IL-10 by anti-CD3 mAb, but not by LPS. Pretreatment with CsA (total dose: 50 mg/kg) before injection of 145-2C11 mAb completely prevented the release of IL-10 in serum as well as IL-10 mRNA accumulation in spleen cells. In contrast, CsA markedly enhanced LPS-induced IL-10 release (IL-10 serum levels at 6 h: 8.31 +/- 0.43 vs. 0.71 +/- 0.15 U/ml in mice pretreated with CsA vehicle-control, p < 0.001), as well as IL-10 mRNA accumulation in spleen. We conclude that CsA differentially affects IL-10 production in vivo depending on the nature of the eliciting agent. This observation might be relevant to clinical settings, especially in organ transplantation.