The type I interferons (IFNs) are a family of cytokines, comprising at least 17 subtypes, which exert pleiotropic actions by interaction with a multi-component cell surface receptor and at least one well characterized signal transduction pathway involving JAK/STAT (Janus kinase/signal transducer and activator of transcription) proteins. In a previous report, we showed that a signaling factor, encoded by a gene located on the distal portion of chromosome 21, distinct from the IFNAR-1 receptor, was necessary for 2'-5'-oligoadenylate synthetase activity and antiviral responses, but not for high affinity ligand binding. In the present studies using hybrid Chinese hamster ovary cell lines containing portions of human chromosome 21, we show that the type I IFN signaling molecule, designated herein as ISF21, is distinct from the second receptor component, IFNAR-2, which is expressed in signaling and non-signaling cell lines. The location of the gene encoding ISF21 is narrowed to a region between the 10;21 and the r21 breakpoints, importantly eliminating the Mx gene located at 21q22.3 (the product of which is involved in IFN-induced antiviral responses) as a candidate for the signaling factor. To characterize the action of this factor in the type I IFN signaling pathway, we show that it acts independently of receptor down- regulation following ligand binding, both of which occur equally in the presence or absence of the factor. In addition, we demonstrate that ISF21 is necessary for transcriptional activation of 2'-5'-oligoadenylate synthetase, 6-16, and guanylate-binding protein gene promoter reporter constructs, which are mediated by several signaling pathways. ISF21 represents a novel factor as the localization to chromosome 21, and the data presented in this study exclude any of the known type I IFN signal-transducing molecules.