Replication-deficient viruses provide an attractive alternative to conventional approaches used in the induction of antiviral immunity. We have quantitatively evaluated both the primary and memory cytotoxic T-lymphocyte (CTL) responses elicited by immunization with a replication-deficient mutant of herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). In addition, we have examined the potential role of these CTL in protection against HSV infection. Using bulk culture analysis and limiting-dilution analysis, we have shown that a replication-deficient virus, d301, generates a strong primary CTL response that is comparable to the response induced by the wild type-strain, KOS1.1. Furthermore, the CTL induced by d301 immunization recognized the immunodominant, H-2Kb-restricted, CTL recognition epitope gB498-505 to a level similar to that for CTL from KOS1.1-immunized mice. The memory CTL response evoked by d301 was strong and persistent, even though the frequencies of CTL were slightly lower than the frequencies of CTL induced by KOS1.1. Adoptive transfer studies indicated that both the CD8+ and the CD4+ T-cell responses generated by immunization with d301 and KOS1.1 were able to limit the extent of a cutaneous HSV infection to comparable levels. Overall, these results indicate that viral replication is not necessary to elicit a potent and durable HSV-specific immune response and suggest that replication-deficient viruses may be effective in eliciting protection against viral pathogens.