A number of agents have been shown to alter the latent state of herpes simplex virus in murine sensory ganglia. However, it seems that effective triggers of recrudescent disease must act not only to reactivate latent HSV infection, but also to create a favorable environment in the skin for viral replication. The possibility that alteration of the local Langerhans cell population is one way in which effective triggers of recrudescence may act has been investigated. Of the agents tested, which affect latent HSV, only DMSO significantly altered the numbers of ATPase-bearing Langerhans cells in the epidermis, maximally reducing their density by 83% in 48 h. Xylene and retinoic acid had no discernible effect on numbers of ATPase-staining cells over the 4 d tested. However, the extent to which agents reduced ATPase-staining cell numbers did not correlate with their ability to affect the antigen-presenting capacity of the cells in HSV-specific T-cell proliferative assays in vitro. Xylene and retinoic acid markedly reduced the accessory cell function of epidermal cell suspensions, whereas DMSO had no effect.