Relatively little is known about immune evasion during the productive phase of infection by the gamma(1)-herpesvirus Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). The use of a unique system to isolate cells in lytic cycle allowed us to identify a host shutoff function operating in productively EBV-infected B cells. This impairment of protein synthesis results from mRNA degradation induced upon expression of the early lytic-cycle gene product BGLF5. Recently, a gamma(2)-herpesvirus, Kaposi sarcoma herpesvirus, has also been shown to encode a host shutoff function, indicating that host shutoff appears to be a general feature of gamma-herpesviruses. One of the consequences of host shutoff is a block in the synthesis of HLA class I and II molecules, reflected by reduced levels of these antigen-presenting complexes at the surface of cells in EBV lytic cycle. This effect could lead to escape from T cell recognition and elimination of EBV-producing cells, thereby allowing generation of viral progeny in the face of memory T cell responses.