The interferon regulatory factor (IRF) family, consisting of nine members in mammals, was identified in the late 1980s in the context of research into the type I interferon system. Subsequent studies over the past two decades have revealed the versatile and critical functions performed by this transcription factor family. Indeed, many IRF members play central roles in the cellular differentiation of hematopoietic cells and in the regulation of gene expression in response to pathogen-derived danger signals. In particular, the advances made in understanding the immunobiology of Toll-like and other pattern-recognition receptors have recently generated new momentum for the study of IRFs. Moreover, the role of several IRF family members in the regulation of the cell cycle and apoptosis has important implications for understanding susceptibility to and progression of several cancers.