Persistent viruses have evolved multiple strategies to escape the host immune system. One important prerequisite for efficient viral reproduction in the face of an ongoing immune response is prevention of premature lysis of infected cells. A number of viruses achieve this goal by interfering with antigen presentation and recognition of infected cells by cytotoxic T cells (CTL). Another viral strategy aims to block apoptosis triggered by host defense mechanisms. Both types of strategies seem to be realized by human adenoviruses (Ads). The early transcription unit E3 of Ads encodes proteins that inhibit antigen presentation by MHC class I molecules as well as apoptosis induced by tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) and Fas ligand (FasL). Here, we will describe the organization of the E3 regions of different Ad subgroups and compare the structure and functions of the known immunomodulatory E3 proteins.