Exogenous cytokine therapy can induce systemic toxicity, which might be prevented by activating endogenously produced cytokines in local cell niches. Here we developed antibodybased activators of cytokine signaling (AcCS), which recognize cytokines only when they are bound to their cell surface receptors. AcCS were developed for type I interferons (IFNs), which induce cellular activities by binding to cell surface receptors IFNAR1 and IFNAR2. As a potential alternative to exogenous IFN therapy, AcCS were shown to potentiate the biological activities of natural IFNs by ~ 100-fold. Biochemical and structural characterization demonstrates that the AcCS stabilize the IFN-IFNAR2 binary complex by recognizing an IFN-induced conformational change in IFNAR2. Using IFN mutants that disrupt IFNAR1 binding, AcCS were able to enhance IFN antiviral potency without activating antiproliferative responses. This suggests AcCS can be used to manipulate cytokine signaling for basic science and possibly for therapeutic applications.