- We show that radiative coupling between two multilevel atoms having near-degenerate states can produce new interference effects in spontaneous emission. We explicitly demonstrate this possibility by considering two identical V systems each having a pair of transition dipole matrix elements that are orthogonal to each other. We discuss in detail the origin of the new interference terms and their consequences. Such terms lead to the evolution of certain coherences and excitations that would not occur otherwise. The special choice of the orientation of the transition dipole matrix elements enables us to illustrate the significance of vacuum-induced coherence in multiatom multilevel systems. These coherences can be significant in energy transfer studies. 2001 The American Physical Society.