We investigated the reason for the inability of lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-resistant (Lps-defective [Lps(d)]) C57BL/10ScCr mice to produce beta interferon (IFN-beta) when stimulated with bacteria. For this purpose, the IFN-beta and other macrophage cytokine responses induced by LPS and several killed gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria in LPS-sensitive (Lps-normal [Lps(n)]; C57BL/10ScSn and BALB/c) and Lps(d) (C57BL/10ScCr and BALB/c/l) mice in vitro and in vivo were investigated on the mRNA and protein levels. In addition, double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) was used as a nonbacterial stimulus. LPS and all gram-negative bacteria employed induced IFN-beta in the Lps(n) mice but not in the Lps(d) mice. All gram-positive bacteria tested failed to induce significant amounts of IFN-beta in all four of the mouse strains used. As expected, all other cytokines tested (tumor necrosis factor alpha, interleukin 1alpha [IL-1alpha], IL-6, and IL-10) were differentially induced by gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria. Stimulation with dsRNA induced IFN-beta and all other cytokines mentioned above in all mouse strains, regardless of their LPS sensitivities. The results suggest strongly that LPS is the only bacterial component capable of inducing IFN-beta in significant amounts that are readily detectable under the conditions used in this study. Consequently, in mice, IFN-beta is inducible only by gram-negative bacteria, but not in C57BL/10ScCr or other LPS-resistant mice.