BACKGROUND: Activated fibroblasts (myofibroblasts) play a critical role in cardiac fibrosis; however, their origin in the diseased heart remains unclear, warranting further investigation. Recent studies suggest the contribution of bone marrow fibroblast progenitor cells (BM-FPCs) in pressure overload-induced cardiac fibrosis. We have previously shown that interleukin-10 (IL10) suppresses pressure overload-induced cardiac fibrosis; however, the role of IL10 in inhibition of BM-FPC-mediated cardiac fibrosis is not known. We hypothesized that IL10 inhibits pressure overload-induced homing of BM-FPCs to the heart and their transdifferentiation to myofibroblasts and thus attenuates cardiac fibrosis. METHODS: Pressure overload was induced in wild-type (WT) and IL10 knockout (IL10KO) mice by transverse aortic constriction. To determine the bone marrow origin, chimeric mice were created with enhanced green fluorescent protein WT mice marrow to the IL10KO mice. For mechanistic studies, FPCs were isolated from mouse bone marrow. RESULTS: Pressure overload enhanced BM-FPC mobilization and homing in IL10KO mice compared with WT mice. Furthermore, WT bone marrow (from enhanced green fluorescent protein mice) transplantation in bone marrow-depleted IL10KO mice (IL10KO chimeric mice) reduced transverse aortic constriction-induced BM-FPC mobilization compared with IL10KO mice. Green fluorescent protein costaining with a-smooth muscle actin or collagen 1a in left ventricular tissue sections of IL10KO chimeric mice suggests that myofibroblasts were derived from bone marrow after transverse aortic constriction. Finally, WT bone marrow transplantation in IL10KO mice inhibited transverse aortic constriction-induced cardiac fibrosis and improved heart function. At the molecular level, IL10 treatment significantly inhibited transforming growth factor-ß-induced transdifferentiation and fibrotic signaling in WT BM-FPCs in vitro. Furthermore, fibrosis-associated microRNA (miRNA) expression was highly upregulated in IL10KO-FPCs compared with WT-FPCs. Polymerase chain reaction-based selective miRNA analysis revealed that transforming growth factor-ß-induced enhanced expression of fibrosisassociated miRNAs (miRNA-21,-145, and-208) was significantly inhibited by IL10. Restoration of miRNA-21 levels suppressed the IL10 effects on transforming growth factor-ß-induced fibrotic signaling in BM-FPCs. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest that IL10 inhibits BM-FPC homing and transdifferentiation to myofibroblasts in pressure-overloaded myocardium. Mechanistically, we show for the first time that IL10 suppresses Smad-miRNA-21-mediated activation of BM-FPCs and thus modulates cardiac fibrosis.