Both innate and adaptive immune responses participate in the control of murine cytomegalovirus (mCMV) infection. In some mouse strains, like BALB/c, the control of infection relies on the activities of CD8(+) T cells. mCMV-specific CD8(+) T-cell responses are unusual in that, even after mCMV has been controlled in the periphery, the numbers of circulating virus-specific CD8(+) T cells remain high compared to those observed in other viral infections. To better understand the generation and maintenance of mCMV-specific CD8(+) T-cell responses, we evaluated how antigen load and effector molecules, such as perforin (Prf) and gamma interferon (IFN-gamma), influence these responses during acute infection in vivo. Viral burden affected the magnitude, but not the early kinetics, of antigen-specific CD8(+) T-cell responses. Similarly, the magnitude of virus-specific CD8(+) T-cell expansion was affected by Prf and IFN-gamma, but contraction of antigen-specific responses occurred normally in both Prf- and IFN-gamma-deficient mice. These data indicate that control of mCMV-specific CD8(+) T-cell expansion and contraction is more complex than anticipated and, despite the role of Prf or IFN-gamma in controlling viral replication, a full program of T-cell expansion and contraction can occur in their absence.