The lymphokine IFN-gamma is a pleiotropic immunomodulator and possesses intrinsic antiviral activity. We studied its significance in the development of antiviral immune responses by using IFN-gamma receptor-deficient (IFN-gamma R-/-) mice. After inoculation with live attenuated pseudorabies virus (PRV), the mutant mice showed no infectivity titers in various tissues, and transient viral Ag expression only in the spleen, similar as in wild-type mice. However, the absence of the IFN-gamma R resulted in increased proliferative splenocyte responses. The PRV-immune animals showed a normal IFN-gamma and IL-2 production, without detectable IL-4, and with decreased IL-10 secretion in response to viral Ag or Con A. Immunohistochemically, an increased ratio of IFN-gamma:IL-4-producing spleen cells was found. After immunization with either live attenuated or inactivated PRV, IFN-gamma R-/- mice produced significantly less antiviral Ab, and more succumbed to challenge infection than the intact control animals. The reduction in Ab titers in the mutant mice correlated with lower protection by their sera in transfer experiments. Our data demonstrate that ablation of the IFN-gamma receptor surprisingly does not inhibit the generation of antiviral Th1-type and increase Th2-type cytokine responses. However, it profoundly impairs the generation of protective antiviral Ab.