We previously demonstrated that influenza virus infection induces apoptosis in culture cells. Here, we examined the activation of the Fas antigen gene that encodes an apoptosis-mediating membrane protein in the virus-infected cells. The virus elicited a transient but marked increase in Fas antigen mRNA 3 to 4 hr after infection, followed by the expression of the antigen on the cell surface. Poly(I)-poly(C), a synthetic double-stranded RNA, similarly activated Fas antigen gene expression, and poly(I)-poly(C)-treated cells are highly susceptible to the cell killing effect of IgM isotype of anti-Fas monoclonal antibody. On the other hand, the IgG isotype of anti-Fas monoclonal antibody, which has an inhibitory effect on Fas Ag-mediated cell death, suppressed the virus-induced cell death. Prior exposure of the cells to anti-interferon-beta antibody decreased the degree of cell death as well as the amount of Fas mRNA. The autophosphorylation activity of double-stranded RNA-activated protein kinase was also decreased in the antibody-treated cells. Moreover, a protein kinase inhibitor, 2-aminopurine, blocked the Fas Ag gene activation by poly(I)-poly(C). These results suggested that the activation of Fas Ag gene in the early phase of infection is an important event for apoptosis, and that it is regulated by the double-stranded RNA/interferon system involving protein phosphorylation.