The injection of 20 ng of mouse interleukin-12 (IL-12) protects mice from a lethal infection with encephalomyocarditis virus. In vitro, an anti-gamma interferon (anti-IFN-gamma) monoclonal antibody but not an anti-IL-12 monoclonal antibody neutralizes the antiviral activity present in the supernatants of splenocytes stimulated with IL-12. Finally, IL-12 fails to protect 129 Sv/Ev IFN-gamma R0/0 mice against encephalomyocarditis virus infection. These results demonstrate that IL-12 exerts its antiviral activity through the induction of endogenous IFN-gamma.