Because of its potent ability to induce apoptosis, vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) is an attractive candidate as an oncolytic virus for tumor therapy. Previous studies have suggested that VSV selectively infects tumor cells due to defects in their antiviral responses making them more susceptible to VSV infection than normal cells. We tested this hypothesis in the prostate tumor system by comparing LNCaP and PC-3 prostate tumor cells to benign human prostatic epithelial cells from patient prostatectomy specimens. We compared the cell killing ability of a recombinant virus containing a wild-type (wt) M protein (rwt) and an isogenic M protein mutant virus (rM51R-M) that induces interferon (IFN) in infected cells and should display a greater selectivity for tumor cells. Our results showed that in single-cycle infection experiments, LNCaP cells were sensitive to killing by both wt and mutant viruses, while PC-3 cells were highly resistant to VSV-induced cell killing. LNCaP and benign prostate cells were similarly susceptible to both viruses, indicating that normal prostate cells are not inherently resistant to killing by VSV. In each of the cell lines, the rM51R-M virus induced similar levels of apoptosis to rwt virus, showing that the M protein does not play a significant role in apoptosis induction by VSV in these cells. In multiple-cycle infection experiments, LNCaP cells were more sensitive than benign prostatic epithelial cells to virus-induced cell killing by rM51R-M virus, but not rwt virus. Both viruses were equally effective at reducing LNCaP tumor volume in vivo following intratumoral and intravenous inoculation in nude mice, while PC-3 tumors were resistant to VSV treatment. None of the mice treated with rM51R-M virus died as a result of virus infection, while 50-71% of mice treated with rwt virus succumbed to virus infection. Similarly, when inoculated by the more sensitive intranasal route, the rM51R-M virus was less pathogenic than the rwt virus from which it was derived. These results indicate that M protein mutant viruses are superior candidates as oncolytic viruses for therapies of prostate tumors, but future strategies for use of VSV will require testing individual tumors for their susceptibility to virus infection.