Interferons (IFNs) elicit multifaceted effects in host innate defence. Accumulating evidence revealed that not only the first identified Jak-Stat pathway but also other newly found signalling pathways are required for the induction of versatile responses by IFNs. In particular, type I IFNs are inducible by viral infection through the recognition of pathogen-associated molecules by pattern recognition receptors, and the induction of multiple IFN-stimulated genes through the activation of type I IFN signalling confers antiviral and immunomodulatory activities. Any step in this process is often targeted by viruses for their immuno-evasion. The regulatory function of constitutive IFN-alpha/beta signalling has been recognized in terms of its boosting effect on cellular responsiveness in host defence systems. Further comprehensive understanding of IFN signalling may offer a better direction to unravelling the complex signalling networks in the host defence system, and may contribute to their more effective therapeutic applications.