To determine the role of CD8(+) T cells in controlling simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) replication in vivo, we examined the effect of depleting this cell population using an anti-CD8 monoclonal antibody, OKT8F. There was on average a 99.9% reduction of CD8 cells in peripheral blood in six infected Macaca mulatta treated with OKT8F. The apparent CD8 depletion started 1 h after antibody administration, and low CD8 levels were maintained until day 8. An increase in plasma viremia of one to three orders of magnitude was observed in five of the six macaques. The injection of a control antibody to an infected macaque did not induce a sustained viral load increase, nor did it significantly reduce the number of CD8(+) T cells. These results demonstrate that CD8 cells play a crucial role in suppressing SIV replication in vivo.