Passive administration of neutralizing monoclonal antibody (MAb) to glycoprotein H (gH) of herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) was found to protect mice from an HSV-1 strain SC16 challenge infection. To investigate further the protective potential of gH, recombinant vaccinia viruses were constructed which expressed the HSV-1 gH open reading frame under the control of the vaccinia virus 7.5K early/late promoter or the 4b late promoter. Immunization with recombinant viruses, however, did not induce the production of neutralizing antisera and the mice were not protected from zosteriform spread or the establishment of latent infection following viral challenge. The gH produced by the recombinant vaccinia viruses differed in electrophoretic mobility and antigenicity from authentic HSV-1 gH. Only one of three neutralizing MAbs specific for conformational epitopes on gH was able to immunoprecipitate gH synthesized in recombinant vaccinia virus-infected cells. In addition cell surface expression of gH was not detected in cells infected with the recombinant vaccinia viruses.