Interferons (IFNs) comprise a family of polypeptides that exhibit diverse biological effects such as inhibition of cell growth and protection against viral infection. These activities are based mainly on the transcriptional induction of cellular genes by both type I (IFN-alpha and IFN-beta) and type II (IFN-gamma) interferons. Several of these IFN-induced early response genes have been cloned and common elements within their promoters defined. Transcription factors, such as interferon-stimulated gene factor-3, IFN-gamma activation factor and FcRF gamma, that bind to these enhancers subsequently have been isolated and their components identified. This review shall provide an overview of the DNA response elements, the components of the IFN-induced transcription factors and their mechanism of action.