Type I interferons (IFNs) are a family of cytokines involved in the defense against viral infections that play a key role in the activation of both the innate and adaptive immune system. IFNs both directly and indirectly enhance the capacity of B lymphocytes to respond to viral challenge and produce cytotoxic and neutralizing antibodies. However, prolonged type I IFN exposure is not always beneficial to the host. If not regulated properly IFN can drive autoantibody production as well as other parameters of systemic autoimmune disease. Type I IFNs impact B-cell function through a variety of mechanisms, including effects on receptor engagement, Toll-like receptor expression, cell migration, antigen presentation, cytokine responsiveness, cytokine production, survival, differentiation and class-switch recombination. Type I IFNs are also cytotoxic for a variety of cell types and thereby contribute to the accumulation of cell debris that serves as a potential source for autoantigens. Type I IFN engagement of a variety of accessory cells further promotes B-cell survival and activation, as exemplified by the capacity of type I IFNs to increase the level of B-cell survival factors, such as B lymphocyte stimulator, produced by dendritic cells. Therefore, it is not surprising that the loss of expression of the type I IFN receptor can have dramatic effects on the production of autoantibodies and on the clinical features of systemic autoimmune diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus.