Interleukin (IL)-10 is an anti-inflammatory cytokine that may play a protective role in atherosclerosis. The aim of this study was to assess the effect of IL-10 deficiency in the apolipoprotein E knockout mouse. Apolipoprotein E deficient (E-/-) and IL-10 deficient (-/-) mice were crossed to generate E-/- x IL-10-/- double knockout mice. By 16 wk, cholesterol and triglycerides were similar in double and single knockouts but the lack of IL-10 led to increased low-density lipoprotein cholesterol whereas very-low-density lipoprotein was reduced. In parallel, T-helper 1 responses and lesion size were dramatically increased in double knockout compared with E-/- controls. At 48 wk, matrix metalloproteinases and tissue factor activities were increased in lesions of double-knockout mice. Furthermore, markers of systemic coagulation were increased, and vascular thrombosis in response to i.v. thrombin occurred more frequently in E-/- x IL-10-/- than in E-/- mice. Our findings suggest that IL-10 deficiency plays a deleterious role in atherosclerosis. The early phase of lesion development was increased, and the proteolytic and procoagulant activity was elevated in advanced lesions. These data show that IL-10 may reduce atherogenesis and improve the stability of plaques.