Gene expression analysis previously revealed a robust IFN-responsive gene induction profile that was selectively up-regulated in Borrelia burgdorferi-infected C3H mice at 1 wk postinfection. This profile was correlated with arthritis development, as it was absent from infected, mildly arthritic C57BL/6 mice. In this report we now demonstrate that profile induction in infected C3H scid mice occurs independently of B or T lymphocyte infiltration in the joint tissue. Additionally, type I IFN receptor-blocking Abs, but not anti-IFN-γ Abs, dramatically reduced arthritis, revealing a critical but previously unappreciated role for type I IFN in Lyme arthritis development. Certain examined IFN-inducible transcripts were also significantly diminished within joint tissue of mice treated with anti-IFNAR1, whereas expression of other IFN-responsive genes was more markedly altered by anti-IFN-γ treatment. These data indicate that induction of the entire IFN profile is not necessary for arthritis development. These findings further tie early type I IFN induction to Lyme arthritis development, a connection not previously made. Bone marrow-derived macrophages readily induced IFN-responsive genes following B. burgdorferi stimulation, and this expression required a functional type I IFN receptor. Strikingly, induction of these genes was independent of TLRs 2,4, and 9 and of the adapter molecule MyD88. These data demonstrate that the extracellular pathogen B. burgdorferi uses a previously unidentified receptor and a pathway traditionally associated with viruses and intracellular bacteria to initiate transcription of type I IFN and IFN-responsive genes and to initiate arthritis development.