Antiestrogens induce both cytostasis (cell cycle arrest) and apoptosis, but the relationship between these end points and the signaling that regulates their induction are unclear. We have previously implicated the transcription factor and putative tumor suppressor IFN regulatory factor-1 (IRF-1) in acquired antiestrogen resistance (Gu et al., Cancer Res, 62: 3428-3437, 2002). We now show the functional significance of IRF-1 in affecting antiestrogen responsiveness in estrogen receptor-positive antiestrogen-sensitive models (MCF-7, T47D, and ZR-75-1), a model of acquired antiestrogen resistance (MCF7/LCC9; estrogen receptor positive), and a model of de novo antiestrogen resistance (MDA-MB-231; estrogen receptor negative). Basal IRF-1 mRNA expression is lower in MCF7/LCC9 cells when compared with MCF-7, T47D, and ZR-75-1 cells. IRF-1 transcriptional activity in MCF-7/LCC9 cells is 18-fold lower than that seen in the parental cells (MCF-7/LCC1) and is comparable with that in MDA-MB-231 cells. Although IRF-1 mRNA expression is induced by ICI 182,780 in sensitive cells, this regulation is lost in MCF-7/LCC9 and is absent in MDA-MB-231 cells. Loss of IRF-1 regulation appears specific to antiestrogen resistance-resistant cells induce IRF-1 mRNA in response to the cytotoxic drug doxorubicin. A dominant-negative IRF-1 eliminates the ICI 182,780-induced apoptotic response (reduced >4-fold) and reduces MCF-7 and T47D cell sensitivity to the antiproliferative effects of ICI 182,780. This effect is not mediated by changes in cell cycle distribution; rather, dominant-negative IRF-1 reduces ICI 182,780-induced apoptosis. These data identify a novel mechanism of antiestrogen resistance and implicate IRF-1 as a key component in signaling some ER-mediated effects on apoptosis/cell survival.