Murine hepatitis virus strain 3 (MHV-3) produces a strain-dependent spectrum of disease. The development of liver necrosis has been shown to be related to production of a unique macrophage procoagulant activity (PCA), encoded by the gene fgl-2, in susceptible mice. These studies were designed to examine the influence of Th1/Th2 cells on resistance/susceptibility and production of macrophage PCA in resistant (A/J) and susceptible (BALB/cJ) strains of mice following infection with MHV-3. Immunization of A/J mice with MHV-3 induced a Th1 cellular immune response, and one Th1 cell line (3E9.1) protected susceptible mice and inhibited PCA production by macrophages both in vitro and in vivo. In contrast, immunization of BALB/cJ mice with an attenuated variant of MHV-3 derived from passaging MHV-3 in YAC-1 cells resulted in a Th2 response. Transfer of spleen cells and T cell lines from immunized BALB/cJ mice failed to protect naive susceptible syngeneic mice from infection with MHV-3 and augmented macrophage PCA production to MHV-3 in vitro. However, serum from immunized BALB/cJ mice contained high titrated neutralizing Ab that protected naive BALB/cJ animals from lethal primary MHV-3 infection. These results demonstrate that susceptible BALB/cJ mice generate a Th2 response following MHV-3 infection and that these Th2 cells neither inhibit MHV-3-induced macrophage PCA production nor protect naive mice from MHV-3 infection. The results suggest that Ab protects against primary infection but cannot eradicate ongoing infection. Thus, these data define the differential role of Th1/Th2 lymphocytes in primary and secondary MHV-3 infection and emphasize the importance of PCA in the pathogenesis of MHV-3 infection.