The requirement of type I interferon (IFN) for natural killer (NK) cell activation in response to viral infection is known, but the underlying mechanism remains unclear. Here, we demonstrate that type I IFN signaling in inflammatory monocytes, but not in dendritic cells (DCs) or NK cells, is essential for NK cell function in response to a mucosal herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) infection. Mice deficient in type I IFN signaling,
Ifnar−/−and Irf9−/−mice, had significantly lower levels of inflammatory monocytes, were deficient in IL-18 production, and lacked NK cell–derived IFN-γ. Depletion of inflammatory monocytes, but not DCs or other myeloid cells, resulted in lower levels of IL-18 and a complete abrogation of NK cell function in HSV-2 infection. Moreover, this resulted in higher susceptibility to HSV-2 infection. Although Il18−/−mice had normal levels of inflammatory monocytes, their NK cells were unresponsive to HSV-2 challenge. This study highlights the importance of type I IFN signaling in inflammatory monocytes and the induction of the early innate antiviral response.