Interleukin (IL)-18 is functionally similar to IL-12 in mediating T helper cell type 1 (Th1) response and natural killer (NK) cell activity but is related to IL-1 in protein structure and signaling, including recruitment of IL-1 receptor-associated kinase (IRAK) to the receptor and activation of c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase (JNK) and nuclear factor (NF)-κB. The role of IRAK in IL-18-induced responses was studied in IRAK-deficient mice. Significant defects in JNK induction and partial impairment in NF-κB activation were found in IRAK-deficient Th1 cells, resulting in a dramatic decrease in interferon (IFN)-γ mRNA expression. In vivo Th1 response to Propionibacterium acnes and lipopolysaccharide in IFN-γ production and induction of NK cytotoxicity by IL-18 were severely impaired in IRAK-deficient mice. IFN-γ production by activated NK cells in an acute murine cytomegalovirus infection was significantly reduced despite normal induction of NK cytotoxicity. These results demonstrate that IRAK plays an important role in IL-18-induced signaling and function.