Retinoic acid (RA) and interferons (IFNs) are negative regulators of cell proliferation. In vitro and in vivo, their combination leads to a more potent growth inhibition. However, the molecular mechanisms by which RA and IFNs potentiate each other are not fully understood. As some IFN-induced gene products regulate cell growth and/or antiviral activity, we analysed the effects of RA on their expressions. RA increases the level of 2'5'oligoadenylate synthetase, p68 kinase, the promyelocytic leukemia protein (PML) and Sp100 in both HL-60 and WISH cells. Moreover, RA and IFN act cooperatively to increase the expression of these proteins. RA also inhibits vesicular stomatitis virus replication and induces a higher antiviral state and growth inhibition when combined with IFN. RA stimulates the IFN regulatory factor 1 (IRF-1) gene expression directly through the GAS motif and causes the induction and secretion of IFNalpha. Additional mechanisms could be involved as RA increases the level of signal transducing activators of transcription (STAT) proteins, and enhances the IFN-induced STAT activation, suggesting that cooperative effects by RA and IFN are mediated through multiple pathways.