The role of glutathione (GSH) in the in vitro infection and replication of human herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) was investigated. Intracellular endogenous GSH levels dramatically decreased in the first 24 h after virus adsorption, starting immediately after virus challenge. The addition of exogenous GSH was not only able to restore its intracellular levels almost up to those found in uninfected cells, but also to inhibit > 99% the replication of HSV-1. This inhibition was concentration-dependent, not related to toxic effects on host cells and also maintained if the exogenous GSH was added as late as 24 h after virus challenge, i.e. when virus infection was fully established. Electron microscopic examination of HSV-1-infected cells showed that GSH dramatically reduced the number of extracellular and intracytoplasmic virus particles, whereas some complete nucleocapsids were still detected within the nuclei of GSH-treated cells. Consistent with this observation, immunoblot analysis showed that the expression of HSV-1-glycoprotein B, crucial for the release and the infectivity of virus particles, was significantly decreased. Data suggest that exogenous GSH inhibits the replication of HSV-1 by interfering with very late stages of the virus life cycle, without affecting cellular metabolism.