The double stranded RNA (dsRNA)-activated protein kinase PKR is a ubiquitously expressed serine/threonine protein kinase that is induced by interferon and activated by dsRNA, cytokine, growth factor and stress signals. It is essential for cells to respond adequately to different stresses including growth factor deprivation, products of the inflammatory response (TNF) and bacterial (lipopolysaccharide) and viral (dsRNA) products. As a vital component of the cellular antiviral response pathway, PKR is autophosphorylated and activated on binding to dsRNA. This results in inhibition of protein synthesis via the phosphorylation of eIF2alpha and also induces transcription of inflammatory genes by PKR-dependent signaling of the activation of different transcription factors. Along with RNaseL, PKR constitutes the antiviral arm of a group of mammalian stress response proteins that have counterparts in yeast. What began as adaptation to amino acid deprivation and sensing unfolded proteins in the endoplasmic reticulum has evolved into a family of sophisticated mammalian stress response proteins able to mediate cellular responses to both physical and biological stress.