Epstein-Barr virus IL-10 (ebvIL-10) mimics the biological functions of cellular IL-10 including a number of immunoinhibitory activities on diverse immune cells. Characterization of ebvIL-10 and several mutants, expressed in Escherichia coli, by gel filtration chromatography and mass spectrometry revealed a +1 frameshift upon ebvIL-10 expression. The frameshift is caused by the rare AGG codon at ebvIL-10 Arg159, which is followed by the most inefficient stop signal, UGAC. The frameshift was corrected by substituting the rare AGG codon with an abundant arginine codon, CGU, or by enhancing the level of tRNA that decodes the AGG codon. As a result, ebvIL-10 expression levels increased by ∼3-fold and the purity of the protein improved from 85-95% to 98-99%. The correction of the frameshift has been essential for continuing structural and biophysical studies of ebvIL-10. © 2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.