Interferon regulatory factor-1 (IRF-1) is a nuclear transcription factor that mediates interferon and other cytokine effects and appears to have antitumor activity in vitro and in vivo in cancer cells. We have constructed a recombinant adenoviral vector (Ad-IRF-1) that infects mammary cells with high efficiency and results in high levels of functional IRF-1 protein in transfected cells. Overexpression of IRF-1 in two mouse breast cancer cell lines, C3-L5 and TS/A, resulted in apoptosis in these cell lines as assessed by Annexin V staining. The involvement of caspases was confirmed by significant inhibition of apoptosis by a caspase inhibitor, and by demonstration of caspase-3 activity, cleavage of caspase-3, and PARP cleavage. Interestingly, the growth of nonmalignant breast cell lines C127I and NMuMG did not appear to be inhibited by IRF-1 overexpression. Suppression of growth for breast cancer cell lines in vivo was demonstrated by both preinfection of breast cancer cells ex vivo and by intratumoral injection of Ad-IRF-1 into established tumors in their natural hosts. The mechanism of apoptosis may involve the transcriptional upregulation of bak, caspase-8, and caspase-7 expression. These data support the antitumor potential of IRF-1 and the use of agents that increase IRF-1 in breast cancer.