The complete nucleotide sequence of a human interferon-alpha gene is reported. The gene, designated IFN-alpha M1, was isolated from a human genomic library in phage lambda Charon 4A using synthetic oligonucleotides as hybridization probes. Based on a comparison of nucleotide sequence data obtained from this recombinant phage with published interferon-alpha gene sequences, a region of DNA capable of coding for a pre-interferon of 189 amino acids was identified. An AluI fragment containing the coding region for the mature interferon was inserted into the HincII site of the phage M13mp11, resulting in a fusion of portions of the IFN-alpha M1 and the beta-galactosidase genes. Antiviral activity was detected in extracts from E. coli infected with the recombinant M13 phage carrying the fused gene. The antiviral activity was completely neutralized by antibodies to human interferon-alpha.