Specific immune responses of inbred miniature pigs following vaccination and challenge with suid herpesvirus 1 (SHV-1) were determined. Vaccination of swine with SHV-1 elicited both specific neutralizing antibody and lymphoproliferative responses. Moreover, pigs vaccinated with SHV-1 were fully protected against a lethal virus challenge. Pigs vaccinated with a recombinant (r) SHV-1 virus, followed by challenge with a virulent SHV-1, had lower percentages of circulating T- and B-lymphocytes, and showed a significant (P < or = 0.05) reduction in peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) antibody-dependent cell-cytotoxicity than control (noninfected, SHV-1 sero-negative) animals. From the 5th through the 8th week of postchallenge, rSHV-1 was isolated from 2 of 4 pigs. Presence of r-virus was indicative that PBMC were infectious in vivo. The rSHV-1, with beta-galactosidase activity, was only recovered from ConA- and IL-2-stimulated primary PBMC cocultivated with porcine kidney cells. Control pigs exposed to challenge SHV-1 elicited both specific neutralizing antibody and lympho-proliferative responses followed by subsequent infection. These infected pigs, compared to control pigs, had significantly (P < or = 0.05) lowered percentages of T- and B-lymphocytes, lowered T-cell mitogenic responses, variable PBMC counts, and lowered blood phagocytic cell function. When PBMC from control pigs were cultured and infected with SHV-1, the virus caused a significant (P < or = 0.05) suppression of T-cell proliferation and PBMC mitochondrial dehydrogenase and macrophage activities.