Inhibitory receptors specific for alleles of MHC class I proteins play an important role in determining the reactivity and specificity of NK cells. To determine whether these receptors are also able to regulate T cell functions, we have studied anti-viral immune responses in mice transgenic for a class I-specific inhibitory receptor, Ly49A. Although nontransgenic mice express Ly49A primarily on NK cells and some T cells, the Ly49A transgenic mice express Ly49A on all lymphocytes, including T cells. We have assessed the activation, expansion, cytokine production, and cytotoxic activity of CD8 T cells in both transgenic and nontransgenic mice following infection with lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus. As expected, nontransgenic mice made a potent virus-specific CD8 T cell response following virus infection. However, as measured in cytolysis assays and by cytokine production, virus-specific CD8 T cell activity was reduced in Ly49A transgenic mice. This inhibition was largely, but not always exclusively, dependent upon the presence, either in vivo or in vitro, of the Ly49A ligand, H-2D(d). Strikingly Ly49A transgenic mice have reduced capacity to control infection with the virulent lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus variant clone 13. Overall, these studies demonstrate that expression of killer inhibitory receptors can modulate anti-viral T cell responses in vivo and in vitro.