Induction of the interferon (IFN)-α/β gene transcription in virus-infected cells is an event central to innate immunity. Mice lacking the transcription factor IRF-3 are more vulnerable to virus infection. In embryonic fibroblasts, virus-induced IFN-α/β gene expression levels are reduced and the spectrum of the IFN-α mRNA subspecies altered. Furthermore, cells additionally defective in IRF-7 expression totally fail to induce these genes in response to infections by any of the virus types tested. In these cells, a normal profile of IFN-α/β mRNA induction can be achieved by coexpressing both IRF-3 and IRF-7. These results demonstrate the essential and distinct roles of the two factors, which together ensure the transcriptional efficiency and diversity of IFN-α/β genes for the antiviral response.