Interferon regulatory factor 1 (IRF-1) is a protein that binds to cis-elements within the promoter of interferon (IFN)-beta and some IFN-inducible genes. We used a human fibroblast line, GM-637, to generate stable transfectants constitutively expressing IRF-1 mRNA in either the sense or antisense orientation. Upon induction with poly-(I).poly(C) or Newcastle disease virus, cells expressing sense IRF-1 mRNA produced significantly higher levels of IFN-beta mRNA and protein than control cells, whereas cells expressing antisense IRF-1 mRNA produced little or no IFN-beta mRNA and protein. Furthermore, clear differences were seen among the transfectants in the level of expression of two IFN-induced genes (2'-5'-oligoadenylate synthetase and class I HLA). Our data show that IRF-1 is essential for the induced expression of the IFN-beta gene. The results also indicate an important role of IRF-1 in the expression of IFN-inducible genes and suggest a role for IRF-1 in many other cytokine actions.