The interferon (IFN)-induced double-stranded RNA (dsRNA)-activated Ser/Thr protein kinase (PKR) plays a role in the antiviral and antiproliferative effects of IFN. PKR phosphorylates initiation factor eIF2alpha, thereby inhibiting protein synthesis, and also activates the transcription factor, nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB), by phosphorylating the inhibitor of NF-kappaB, IkappaB. Mice devoid of functional PKR (Pkr(o/o)) derived by targeted gene disruption exhibit a diminished response to IFN-gamma and poly(rI:rC) (pIC). In embryo fibroblasts derived from Pkr(o/o) mice, interferon regulatory factor 1 (IRF-1) or guanylate binding protein (Gbp) promoter-reporter constructs were unresponsive to IFN-gamma or pIC but response could be restored by co-transfection with PKR. The lack of responsiveness could be attributed to a diminished activation of IRF-1 and/or NF-kappaB in response to IFN-gamma or pIC. Thus, PKR acts as a signal transducer for IFN-stimulated genes dependent on the transcription factors IRF-1 and NF-kappaB.