Herpesviruses utilize many strategies for weakening the host immune response. For CMV, this includes avoidance of NK clearance and inhibition of MHC class I and class II presentation pathways. In this study, we report that mouse CMV (MCMV) specifically causes a premature and transient activation of host IL-10 very early in the course of infection, resulting in a dramatic and selective reduction in MHC class II surface expression. The expression of IL-10 is normally late in the immune response to a pathogen, serving to dampen the response by suppression of the production of inflammatory cytokines. In infection of macrophages, we show that MCMV induces the production of IL-10, leading to an early and selective reduction in the expression of MHC class II on the surface of the cells. Inhibition of MHC class II expression was not observed in the presence of neutralizing Abs to IL-10 or in macrophages from IL-10-deficient mice. Moreover, MCMV-infected IL-10-deficient mice developed an early and significantly more robust macrophage MHC class II induction than normal mice. Altogether, our results demonstrate that viral induction of an IL-10 autocrine pathway plays an essential early role in selectively reducing MHC class II expression on the surface of APC prior to stimulation by IFN-gamma.