Recent studies have established that interleukin (IL)-10 induces growth and most notably differentiation of normal human B lymphocytes. We studied here the effects of IL-10 on the proliferation and survival of B-chronic lymphocytic leukemia (B-CLL) cells. IL-10 was found to inhibit 54-96% of the spontaneous tritiated thymidine incorporation observed in 3 of 12 B-CLL samples. Furthermore, IL-10 decreased the viable cell recovery of all five B-CLL samples tested, irrespective of whether cells were spontaneously synthesizing DNA or not. After 1 wk, B-CLL populations cultured with IL-10 were lost while those cultured without IL-10 survived. Flow cytometric analysis, DNA gel electrophoresis, and Giemsa staining all revealed that IL-10 induced B-CLL cells to die from apoptosis. This IL-10-mediated apoptosis was dose dependent and specific as it could be inhibited by a neutralizing anti-IL-10 antibody. B-CLL cells undergoing apoptosis in response to IL-10 showed decreased Bcl-2 protein levels. Addition of IL-2, IL-4, interferon gamma, and anti-CD40 monoclonal antibody prevented the IL-10-mediated apoptosis of B-CLL cells. None of the malignant B cell populations obtained from eight non-Hodgkin's lymphomas and three hairy cell leukemias underwent apoptosis after IL-10 treatment, thus suggesting that the apoptotic effect of IL-10 is specific for B-CLL cells. Thus, IL-10 inhibits the DNA synthesis and most notably the survival of B-CLL cells, findings that call for considering IL-10 in the immunotherapy of chemoresistant B-CLL.

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