c-Jun NH(2)-terminal kinases (JNK) play important roles in T helper cell (Th) proliferation, differentiation, and maintenance of Th1/Th2 polarization. To determine whether JNKs are involved in antiviral T cell immunity, and whether JNK1 and JNK2 bear biological differences, we investigated the immune responses of JNK1-deficient and JNK2-deficient mice to lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV). After LCMV infection, wild-type (JNK(+/+)) mice had a 5- to 10-fold increase in splenic CD8(+) T cells. In contrast, infected JNK1(-/-) mice showed a significantly lower virus-specific CD8(+) T cell expansion. However, JNK1(-/-) mice cleared LCMV infection with similar kinetics as JNK(+/+) mice. Splenic T cells from LCMV-infected JNK1(-/-) animals produced interferon gamma after stimulation with viral peptides. However, fewer JNK1(-/-) T cells acquired an activated phenotype (CD44(hi)) and more JNK1(-/-)CD8(+)CD44(hi) cells underwent apoptosis than JNK(+/+) cells at the peak of the primary response. In contrast, LCMV-infected JNK2(-/-) mice generated more virus-specific CD8(+) T cells than JNK(+/+) mice. These results indicate that JNK1 and JNK2 signal pathways have distinct roles in T cell responses during a viral infection. JNK1 is involved in survival of activated T cells during immune responses, and JNK2 plays a role in control of CD8(+) T cell expansion in vivo.