A single high dose of interferon-beta (IFNbeta) activates powerful cellular responses, in which many anti-viral, pro-apoptotic, and anti-proliferative proteins are highly expressed. Since some of these proteins are deleterious, cells downregulate this initial response rapidly. However, the expression of many anti-viral proteins that do no harm is sustained, prolonging a substantial part of the initial anti-viral response for days and also providing resistance to DNA damage. While the transcription factor ISGF3 (IRF9 and tyrosine-phosphorylated STATs 1 and 2) drives the first rapid response phase, the related factor un-phosphorylated ISGF3 (U-ISGF3), formed by IFNbeta-induced high levels of IRF9 and STATs 1 and 2 without tyrosine phosphorylation, drives the second prolonged response. The U-ISGF3-induced anti-viral genes that show prolonged expression are driven by distinct IFN stimulated response elements (ISREs). Continuous exposure of cells to a low level of IFNbeta, often seen in cancers, leads to steady-state increased expression of only the U-ISGF3-dependent proteins, with no sustained increase in other IFNbeta-induced proteins, and to constitutive resistance to DNA damage.