Two human hepatoma cell lines, the PLC/PRF/5 and the Mahlavu cells, which differ in their production of the hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), responded differently to interferon (IFN). After IFN treatment both cell lines were able to inhibit Sindbis virus replication. Oligo A synthetase (E enzyme) could be activated in the PLC/PRF/5 cells although they were not sensitive to exogenous 2 - 5 oligoadenylic acid (2 - 5 A). In contrast, the Mahlavu cells were sensitive to exogenous 2 - 5 A, but unable to activate the E enzyme. Both cell lines were unable to stimulate phosphorylation of the exogenous initiator factor eIF-2.