Natural-occurring minerals representative of six silicate classes were examined for their influence on interferon induction by influenza virus in Rhesus monkey kidney (LLC-MK 2) cell monolayers. Minerals within the classes nesosilicate, sorosilicate, cyclosilicate, and inosilicate exhibited either little or marked (50% or greater) inhibition of interferon induction. Within the inosilicate class, however, minerals of the pyroxenoid group (wollastonite, pectolite, and rhodonite) all significantly showed a two- to threefold increase in interferon production. Silicate materials in the phyllosilicate and tectosilicate classes all showed inhibitory activity for the induction process. When silicate minerals were coated with the polymer poly(4-vinylpyridine- N-oxide), the inhibitory activity of silicates on viral interferon induction was counteracted. Of nine randomly selected silicate minerals, which inhibited viral interferon induction, none adversely affected the ability of exogenous interferon to confer antiviral cellular resistance. Increased levels of influenza virus multiplication concomitant with decreased levels of interferon occurred in cell monolayers pretreated with silicates. The findings of this study demonstrate the diverse effects of minerals representative of different silicate classes on the interferon system and indicate that certain silicates in compromising the viral interferon induction process may increase susceptibility to viral infection.