Host survival of herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) infection depends on the establishment of latent infections in both peripheral and central nervous systems. Strains of HSV-1 that are successful in escaping the immune response produce a lethal infection. We now report a possible mechanism of immune response evasion used by HSV-1. After intraocular inoculation of mice, HSV-1 strain F established a latent infection in the brain, whereas strain KOS did not. The immune response to HSV-1 infection (strains KOS and F) in the brain was characterized by induction of major histocompatibility complex class II expression and recruitment of CD4+ and CD8+ cells to highly restricted sites of intracerebral viral infection. Major histocompatibility complex class II antigen expression was primarily intracellular in strain KOS infection centers and at the cell surface in strain F infection centers. We propose that major histocompatibility complex class II-restricted viral-antigen presentation to T cells is interrupted during strain KOS infections, thereby allowing KOS infection to evade T-cell-mediated events that would normally protect the host from a lethal infection. Immunocompromised mice (athymic or irradiate mice) could not survive strain F infections; however, latent F infections were established in irradiated mice reconstituted with naive lymph node and spleen cells. These data suggest that class II-restricted presentation of viral antigens is required for the control of HSV-1 infections in the nervous system.