Cytokines play a critical role in modulating the innate and adaptive immune systems. Here, we have identified from the human genomic sequence a family of three cytokines, designated interleukin 28A (IL-28A), IL-28B and IL-29, that are distantly related to type I interferons (IFNs) and the IL-10 family. We found that like type I IFNs, IL-28 and IL-29 were induced by viral infection and showed antiviral activity. However, IL-28 and IL-29 interacted with a heterodimeric class II cytokine receptor that consisted of IL-10 receptor beta (IL-10Rbeta) and an orphan class II receptor chain, designated IL-28Ralpha. This newly described cytokine family may serve as an alternative to type I IFNs in providing immunity to viral infection.