Type I interferon (IFN) family has more than 10 structurally related subtypes of alpha IFN (IFNA) genes and a single beta IFN (IFNB) gene. This study examined the expression of MuIFNA1, A4, A5, A6, A9 and MuIFNB mRNAs in the livers and spleens of MCMV-infected mice at 2, 4 and 6 h post infection. The three strains of inbred mice studied were C57BL/6, B6.C-H-28(c) and BALB/c. B6.C-H-28(c) strain is a congenic strain of C57BL/6 genomic background. Detection of the specific mRNAs was by an established semiquantitative procedure based on reverse transcription and PCR amplification followed by differential hybridization to specific oligonucleotides. Similar expression patterns of the type I IFN mRNAs were found in C57BL/6 and B6.C-H-28(c) strains of mice. However, when the genotype was significantly different (BALB/c), a different expression pattern of IFN mRNAs was seen. Differences in the expression patterns of the type I IFN mRNAs was also seen between the livers and spleens of a given mouse strain. Thus, the present study indicates that mouse genotype appears to be a major determinant of the subtype response pattern seen in vivo and that tissue-type can influence the subtype response pattern seen within a given mouse genotype.