Background. Controversy exists concerning the role of interleukin 10 (IL-10) in sepsis. When IL-10 is used in models of endotoxemia, it appears to protect (by anti-inflammatory effects), whereas in models of polymicrobial sepsis it seems to be deleterious (by immunosuppression ?). However, little direct evidence for such an immunosuppressive role is available for polymicrobial sepsis. Thus the aim of this study was to determine whether IL- 10 contributes to lymphocyte immunosuppression in a model of cecal ligation and puncture (CLP) and whether neutralization of IL-10 has any salutary effects on survival after sepsis. Methods. To assess the former, polymicrobial sepsis was induced in male C57BL/6J wild-type (+/+) and C57BL/6J-IL-10 knockout(-/-) mice by CLP. Splenocytes were harvested 24 hours later and stimulated with concanavalin A to assess their proliferative capacity and their ability to release the Th1 lymphokines interleukin 2 and interferon gamma (by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, nanograms/millilter). To further verify the immunosuppressive role of IL-10, splenocytes were obtained from male C3H/HeN mice 24 hours after CLP and then stimulated in the presence or absence of anti-IL-10 monoclonal antibody (Mab, 4 μg/mL). To assess the in Vivo effects of IL-10 neutralization on survival after CLP, C3H/HeN mice (16 per group) were given 250 μg of anti-IL-10 Mab (intraperitoneally) either immediately after CLP (before the initiation of the hyperdynamic phase) or 12 hours after CLP (the beginning of the hypodynamic state). Control mice were given nonspecific rat immunoglobulin G. Results. These data indicate that IL-10 deficiency (-/-) prevents the depression of the proliferative capacity and Th1 lymphokine production after sepsis. Analysis of the interleukin 2-interferon gamma production patterns and proliferative capacity in lymphocytes treated with anti-IL-10 Mab confirmed the role of IL-10 in suppressing lymphocyte responsiveness in CLP. Interestingly, however, only delayed administration (12 hours after CLP) of anti-IL-10 markedly increased survival of mice (Fisher's exact test, P <. 05). Conclusion. The results not only illustrate IL-10's role in septic immune dysfunction but document that anti-IL-10 administration beyond the initial proinflammatory hyperdynamic state of polymicrobial sepsis improves survival of animals subjected to sepsis.