The interaction between activated bovine T lymphocytes (BTLs) and bovine herpesvirus type 1 (BHV-1) was investigated. BHV-1 infection of BTLs reduced the amplitude of recombinant bovine interleukin 2-induced proliferative responses. This decreased proliferation was caused by a virus-induced lymphocytolysis which was dependent on viable virus and was not inhibited by recombinant bovine interferon-alpha I1. Furthermore, lymphocytolysis was not associated with virus replication or with the synthesis of detectable levels of viral proteins. Electron microscopic examination of virus-infected cells revealed that lymphocytolysis was characterized by early nuclear disintegration resembling apoptosis. These observations suggest that activated T cells, localized at the site of BHV-1 infection, may be susceptible to virus-induced cytolysis.