The major host response to many viral infections is the generation of virus-specific CTL. Many protein molecules on the surfaces of both CTL and target cells interact to mediate adhesion of the cells and generate signals that lead to T cell activation and proliferation of virus-specific CTL that then mediate lysis of infected cells. One such protein, CD2, has been shown to increase the binding affinity of CTL to infected cells, and, in addition, enhance CTL activation signals. To determine whether virus-specific CTL could be generated in the absence of CD2, mice lacking a functional CD2 gene were infected with lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV), and the responses to the virus were monitored. CD2-deficient mice infected intracerebrally with LCMV died as a consequence of CTL-mediated choriomeningitis, similar to control littermates. Additionally, CD2-deficient mice inoculated i.p. with LCMV cleared the infection by 2 wk postinfection, as did control mice. Viral clearance in these mice was shown to be due to the generation of a vigorous virus-specific MHC-restricted CTL response. Finally, to determine whether CD2 is essential for the generation of memory CTL, we examined the ability of CD2-deficient mice to generate memory CTL to LCMV and found normal memory CTL responses. Our results indicate that CD2 is not required for the generation of an LCMV-specific CTL response in vivo, nor is CD2 required for the maintenance or activation of memory CTL.