Gene delivery by intravenous injection of cationic liposome-DNA complexes (LDC) can generate efficient transgene expression in the lungs and other organs, but the duration of expression is typically short. Previous studies have suggested a major role for interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) and TNF in this process. However, plasmid DNA is also capable of eliciting production of type I IFNs. Therefore, we assessed the ability of LDC to elicit production of type I IFNs in vivo and assessed the effects of type I IFNs on suppression of transgene expression following in vivo gene delivery with LDC. Injection of LDC was found to induce production of high levels of both IFN-alpha and IFN-beta in vivo. Moreover, the levels of transgene expression following in vivo gene delivery were markedly increased in mice lacking functional type I IFN receptor genes, compared to wild-type mice or mice lacking IFN-gamma or TNF receptors. Addition of recombinant IFN-alpha and IFN-beta inhibited transgene expression by in vitro-transfected endothelial cells, and incubation of macrophages with LDC in vitro triggered production of both IFN-alpha and IFN-beta. Therefore, type I IFNs appear to play a key role in suppressing transgene expression in vivo following systemic nonviral gene delivery using LDC.