Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is caused by a novel coronavirus termed SARS-CoV. We and others have previously shown that the replication of SARS-CoV can be suppressed by exogenously added interferon (IFN), a cytokine which is normally synthesized by cells as a reaction to virus infection. Here, we demonstrate that SARS-CoV escapes IFN-mediated growth inhibition by preventing the induction of IFN-β. In SARS-CoV-infected cells, no endogenous IFN-β transcripts and no IFN-β promoter activity were detected. Nevertheless, the transcription factor interferon regulatory factor 3 (IRF-3), which is essential for IFN-β promoter activity, was transported from the cytoplasm to the nucleus early after infection with SARS-CoV. However, at a later time point in infection, IRF-3 was again localized in the cytoplasm. By contrast, IRF-3 remained in the nucleus of cells infected with the IFN-inducing control virus Bunyamwera delNSs. Other signs of IRF-3 activation such as hyperphosphorylation, homodimer formation, and recruitment of the coactivator CREB-binding protein (CBP) were found late after infection with the control virus but not with SARS-CoV. Our data suggest that nuclear transport of IRF-3 is an immediate-early reaction to virus infection and may precede its hyperphosphorylation, homodimer formation, and binding to CBP. In order to escape activation of the IFN system, SARS-CoV appears to block a step after the early nuclear transport of IRF-3.