The use of RNA blot hybridization with DNA or RNA probes of high specific activity has shown that interferon (IFN)-alpha mRNA is present constitutively in the spleen, kidney, liver, and peripheral blood leukocytes of normal individuals. A single band (approximately equal to 1.2 kilobases) was detected in poly(A)+ RNA isolated from human organs. This RNA hybridized specifically to human IFN-alpha 1 DNA and comigrated with mature IFN-alpha mRNA from virus-induced human peripheral blood leukocytes. No IFN-beta RNA transcripts were detected in any of the tissues tested. IFN-gamma mRNA was detected in only one sample of normal human spleen, which also contained an unusually high level of IFN-alpha mRNA. The use of a modified S1 mapping technique revealed the presence of IFN-alpha 1 and -alpha 2 transcripts only. No IFN-alpha 4, -alpha 5, -alpha 6, -alpha 7, -alpha 8, or -alpha 14 transcripts were detected in the same sample. The detection, in all the samples tested, of a characteristic pattern of expression of IFN genes, different from that obtained following induction, together with the low number of transcripts present (less than or equal to 0.03 copy per cell) suggest that specific IFN genes are transcribed constitutively in vivo.