The murine gamma-herpesvirus MHV-68 causes an acute, transient pneumonitis, followed by an infectious mononucleosis (IM)-like illness with splenomegaly, widespread latent infection of B lymphocytes and an expansion of Vbeta4+ CD8+ T cells. CD8+ T cells specific for an H-2Db-restricted epitope were prominent during the acute respiratory infection, but their prevalence declined rapidly during the mononucleosis. In contrast, CD8+ T cells specific for an H-2Kb-restricted epitope, apparently expressed by virus-infected B lymphocytes, were most numerous during the mononucleosis illness and were maintained at relatively high frequencies thereafter. The prevalence of all peptide-specific CD8+ T cells decreased during the expansion of the Vbeta4+ CD8+ population, which did not recognize any peptide epitopes identified and was apparent also in an MHC class I-deficient environment. The CD8+ T cell population recognizing productively infected epithelial cells thus differed substantially from that responding during the IM illness.