Interleukin 10 (IL-10) is a pleiotropic factor that enhances proliferation of activated human B lymphocytes and induces them to secrete high amounts of immunoglobulins. Here we show that several human B cell lines were able to constitutively secrete human (h)IL-10. Whereas none of the pre-B nor the plasmocytic cell lines tested produced hIL-10, 25 of the 36 tested mature B cell lines (lymphoblastoid and Burkitt lymphoma cell lines) secreted hIL-10. Moreover, 24 of these 25 hIL-10-producing B cell lines contained the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) genome, suggesting a relationship between hIL-10 production by human B cell lines and EBV expression. Accordingly, whereas polyclonal activation via triggering of surface immunoglobulins or CD40 antigen induced highly purified normal human B lymphocytes to produce only low (0.3-0.4 ng/ml) but significant amounts of hIL-10, EBV infection induced them to secrete high amounts of hIL-10 (4-9 ng/ml). Furthermore, addition of exogenous hIL-10, simultaneously to EBV infection, potentiated cell proliferation, whereas a blocking anti-IL-10 antiserum inhibited it. Thus, hIL-10 produced by infected human B lymphocytes appears to be involved in the mechanisms of EBV-induced B cell proliferation.

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