In this study we have examined the effects of interleukin 10 (IL-10) on polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMN), and found that it is a potent inhibitor of tumor necrosis factor (TNF), IL-1 beta, and IL-8 secretion triggered by lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Cytokine production by phagocytosing PMN was also inhibited by IL-10, but to a lesser extent than the LPS-induced production. As shown by Northern blot analysis, IL-10 diminished the levels of TNF, IL-1 beta, and IL-8 mRNAs late after the onset of stimulation of PMN with LPS. In addition, we provide evidence that the kinetics of LPS-induced IL-8 production by PMN is composed of two distinct phases. Specifically, our experiments demonstrated that in the first phase, the production of IL-8 is a process directly induced by LPS that lasts for some hours. After this early wave, a second phase begins that is sustained and leads to an elevated production of IL-8 that appears to be due to the endogenous release of TNF and IL-1 beta. This second wave can in fact be blocked by anti-TNF and anti-IL-1 beta neutralizing antibodies, and by IL-10 as the consequence of its downregulatory effects on TNF and IL-1 beta release. Taken together, these findings identify novel biological actions of IL-10 as a suppressor of the inflammatory response.