NFIL3 (nuclear factor interleukin 3-regulated) is a basic leucine zipper type transcription factor that mediates a variety of immune responses in vertebrates. However, the sequence information and function of NFIL3 homologs in invertebrates, especially mollusks, remains unknown. In the present study, the first NFIL3 homolog was identified in a marine mollusk, Crassostrea hongkongensis (designated as ChNFIL3), followed by its functional characterization. The full-length cDNA of ChNFIL3 is 2221 bp and consists of an open reading frame (ORF) of 1536 bp that encodes a polypeptide of 551 amino acids. Simple Modular Architecture Research Tool (SMART) analysis indicated that ChNFIL3 has two basic leucin zipper domains, similar to the other known NFIL3 family proteins. Tissue distribution analysis of NFIL3 in this mollusk revealed high expression in digestive glands and hemocytes. A significant induction in the mRNA level of ChNFIL3 was observed following bacterial stimulation. ChNFIL3 was found to be localized in the nucleus and over expression of ChNIFL3 led to upregulation of transcriptional activity of an NF-κB reporter gene in HEK 293T cells, indicating its role in innate immunity. Furthermore, addition of exogenous recombinant ChNFIL3 proteins resulted in enhanced mRNA level of hemocyte interleukin 17 in vitro. In conclusion, our findings revealed that NFIL3 in molluscs, plays a conserved role in host defense, similar to its mammalian homolog.