Increased numbers of T cell receptor (TCR)-gamma/delta cells have been observed in animal models of influenza and sendai virus infections, as well as in patients infected with human immunodeficiency virus and herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). However, a direct role for TCR-gamma/delta cells in protective immunity for pathogenic viral infection has not been demonstrated. To define the role of TCR-gamma/delta cells in anti-HSV-1 immunity, TCR-alpha-/- mice treated with anti- TCR-gamma/delta monoclonal antibodies or TCR-gamma/delta x TCR-alpha/beta double-deficient mice were infected with HSV-1 by footpad or ocular routes of infection. In both models of HSV-1 infection, TCR-gamma/delta cells limited severe HSV-1-induced epithelial lesions and greatly reduced mortality by preventing the development of lethal viral encephalitis. The observed protection resulted from TCR-gamma/delta cell-mediated arrest of both viral replication and neurovirulence. The demonstration that TCR-gamma/delta cells play an important protective role in murine HSV-1 infections supports their potential contribution to the immune responses in human HSV-1 infection. Thus, this study demonstrates that TCR-gamma/delta cells may play an important regulatory role in human HSV-1 infections.