Interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) exerts pleiotropic effects, including antiviral activity, stimulation of macrophages and natural killer cells, and increased expression of major histocompatibility complex antigens. Mice without the IFN-gamma receptor had no overt anomalies, and their immune system appeared to develop normally. However, mutant mice had a defective natural resistance, they had increased susceptibility to infection by Listeria monocytogenes and vaccinia virus despite normal cytotoxic and T helper cell responses. Immunoglobulin isotype analysis revealed that IFN-gamma is necessary for a normal antigen-specific immunoglobulin G2a response. These mutant mice offer the possibility for the further elucidation of IFN-gamma-mediated functions by transgenic cell- or tissue-specific reconstitution of a functional receptor.