Interleukin-10 (IL-10) has been reported to inhibit nitric oxide (NO) synthesis and microbicidal activity of interferon-γ (IFN-γ)-stimulated macrophages (MΦ) by preventing the secretion of tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) which serves as an autocrine activating signal. We have examined the effects of recombinant IL-10 on the capacity of IFN-γ together with exogenous TNF-α to induce NO synthesis by bone marrow-derived MΦ. Under these conditions and in contrast to its reported deactivating potential, IL-10 strongly enhanced NO synthesis measured as nitrite (NO) release (half maximal stimulation at approximately 10 U/ml). IL-10 further increased NO production by MΦ stimulated in the presence of optimal concentrations of prostaglandin E2, a positive modulator of MΦ activation by IFN-γ/TNF-α. Increased steady state levels of NO synthase mRNA were observed in 4-h IFN-γ/TNF-α cultures and enhanced NO release was evident 24 h but not 48 h after stimulation. These results suggest that the effects of IL-10 on MΦ function are more complex than previously recognized.