Indirect evidence suggests that type-I interferons (IFN-alpha/beta) play a significant role in the pathogenesis of lupus. To directly examine the contribution of these pleiotropic molecules, we created congenic NZB mice lacking the alpha-chain of IFN-alpha/betaR, the common receptor for the multiple IFN-alpha/beta species. Compared with littermate controls, homozygous IFN-alpha/betaR-deleted NZB mice had significantly reduced anti-erythrocyte autoantibodies, erythroblastosis, hemolytic anemia, anti-DNA autoantibodies, kidney disease, and mortality. These reductions were intermediate in the heterozygous-deleted mice. The disease-ameliorating effects were accompanied by reductions in splenomegaly and in several immune cell subsets, including B-1 cells, the major producers of anti-erythrocyte autoantibodies. Decreases of B and T cell proliferation in vitro and in vivo, and of dendritic cell maturation and T cell stimulatory activity in vitro were also detected. Absence of signaling through the IFN-alpha/betaR, however, did not affect increased basal levels of the IFN-responsive p202 phosphoprotein, encoded by a polymorphic variant of the Ifi202 gene associated with the Nba2 predisposing locus in NZB mice. The data indicate that type-I IFNs are important mediators in the pathogenesis of murine lupus, and that reducing their activity in the human counterpart may be beneficial.