Mice deficient in RNA-dependent protein kinase (PKR–/–) or deficient in PKR and a functional 2′,5′-oligoadenylate synthetase (OAS) pathway (PKR/RL–/–) are more susceptible to genital herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) infection than wild-type mice or mice that are deficient only in a functional OAS pathway (RL–/–) as measured by survival over 30 days. The increase in susceptibility correlated with an increase in virus titre recovered from vaginal tissue or brainstem of infected mice during acute infection. There was also an increase in CD45+ cells and CD8+ T cells residing in the central nervous system of HSV-2-infected PKR/RL–/– mice in comparison with RL–/– or wild-type control animals. In contrast, there was a reduction in the HSV-specific CD8+ T cells within the draining lymph node of the PKR/RL–/– mice. Collectively, activation of PKR, but not of OAS, contributes significantly to the local control and spread of HSV-2 following genital infection.