The in vitro activities of recombinant gene products of the vaccinia virus E3L and K3L genes have been compared. These proteins are both potent inhibitors of the dsRNA activated protein kinase (PKR) as assayed in cell-free translation systems or with purified PKR. The two gene products function at similar molar concentrations. Both proteins are expressed early in vaccinia virus infection suggesting that vaccinia virus maintains redundant mechanisms for the down regulation of PKR. The K3L gene product can be shown to be associated with PKR in vaccinia virus infected cells. The activities of the vaccinia virus PKR inhibitors are compared with other viral protein inhibitors of PKR. A variety of cellular proteins have also been identified by their ability to inhibit PKR activity or to prevent PKR activation. These cellular PKR interacting proteins have been uncovered from the studies of viral strategies to prevent PKR activation, as well as from studies looking at the effects of growth control, growth factors or oncogene expression on PKR activity. A picture emerges of PKR fulfilling a complex regulatory role in cell function with the regulation of its activity as part of a complex cascade interfacing with the signal transduction/cell cycle control machinery.