Chilo iridescent virus (CIV) is the type species for the family Iridoviridae, which are large, isometric, cytoplasmic dsDNA viruses. We examined the mechanism of apoptosis induction by CIV. High CIV doses (CIV XS; 400 μg/ml), UV-irradiated virus (CIV UV; 10 μg/ml) and CVPE (CIV protein extract; 10 μg/ml) induced apoptosis in 60% of treated Choristoneura fumiferana (IPRI-CF-124T) cells. Normal doses of infectious CIV (10 μg/ml) induced apoptosis in only 10% of C. fumiferana (CF) cells. Apoptosis was inhibited by Z-IETD-FMK, an apical caspase inhibitor, indicating that CIV-induced apoptosis requires caspase activity. The putative caspase in CF cells was designated Cf-caspase-i. CIV UV or CVPE enhanced Cf-caspase-i activity by 80% at 24 h relative to mock-treated cells. Since the MAP kinase pathway induces or inhibits apoptosis depending on the context, we used JNK inhibitor SP600125 and demonstrated drastic suppression of CVPE-induced apoptosis. Thus, the JNK signaling pathway is significant for apoptosis in this system. Virus interaction with the cell surface was not sufficient for apoptosis since CIV UV particles bound to polysterene beads failed to induce apoptosis. Endocytosis inhibitors (bafilomycin or ammonium chloride) negated apoptosis induction by CIV UV, CIV XS or CVPE indicating that entry through this mode is required. Given the weak apoptotic response to infectious CIV, we postulated that viral gene expression inhibited apoptosis. CIV infection of cells pretreated with cycloheximide induced apoptosis in 69% of the cells compared to 10% in normal infections. Furthermore, blocking viral DNA replication with aphidicolin or phosphonoacetic acid suppressed apoptosis and Cf-caspase-i activity, indicating that early viral expression is necessary for inhibition of apoptosis, and de novo synthesis of viral proteins is not required for induction. We show for the first time that, in a member of the family Iridoviridae, apoptosis: (i) requires entry and endocytosis of virions or virion proteins, (ii) is inhibited under conditions permitting early viral expression, and (iii) requires the JNK signaling pathway. This is the first report of JNK signal requirement during apoptosis induction by an insect virus.