We have reported that an 11,600-Da nuclear membrane glycoprotein named adenovirus death protein (ADP), encoded by the E3 region, is required for the efficient death (lysis) of adenovirus (Ad)-infected cells. We postulated that ADP mediates the release of virions from cells at the conclusion of replication. Here we provide further characterization of cells infected by adp+ and adp- Ads. Using virus mutants with deletions in the individual E3 genes, we show that only mutants that lack ADP have small plaques that are slow to develop. Mutants in the adp gene replicated as well as wild-type Ad, but the cells lysed much more slowly. Cell lysis and viability were determined by plaque size, cell morphology, trypan blue exclusion, the release of lactate dehydrogenase, and the MTT assay for mitochondrial activity. ADP is required for efficient lysis of human A549, KB, 293, and MCF-7 cells. A549 cells infected with adp+ Ads began to die at 2-3 days postinfection and were dead by 6 days. With adp mutants, > 80% of cells remained viable for 5-6 days; when the medium was changed, > 80% of cells were viable after 7 days and 10-20% after 14 days. When the MTT assay was used, there was an increase in mitochondrial activity, suggesting that Ad infection stimulates respiratory metabolism. Nearly all nuclei from wild-type Adinfected cells lacked DAPI-stained DNA by 7 days, whereas with an adp mutant nearly all nuclei stained brightly after 15 days. Nuclei from adp mutant-infected cells were extremely swollen and full of virus, and appeared to have an intact nuclear membrane. Cells infected with wild-type Ad had many vacuoles and perhaps a disrupted nuclear membrane; they did not display features typical of apoptosis.