Rat cytokine synthesis inhibitory factor (IL-10) was cloned. Like mouse and human IL-10 (mIL-10, hIL-10), rat IL-10 exhibits strong DNA and amino acid sequence homology to the open reading frame in the Epstein-Barr virus, BCRFI. The supernatant of COS-7 transfectants with rat IL-10 was found to inhibit the production of IFN-gamma by murine Th1 cells. A probe from the rat IL-10 was used in an RNase protection assay to demonstrate that IL-10 was expressed in LPS-stimulated rat spleen and FACS-purified OX-42-reactive peritoneal macrophages. The production of IL-10 by macrophages, as shown in the current study, suggests that IL-10 may have an autocrine function in inflammation.