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Following herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) ocular infection of C57BL/6 mice, activated CD8(+) T cells specific for an immunodominant epitope on HSV-1 glycoprotein B (gB-CD8 cells) establish a stable memory population in HSV-1 latently infected trigeminal ganglia (TG), whereas non-HSV-specific CD8(+) T cells are lost over time. The retention and activation of gB-CD8 cells appear to be influenced by persistent viral antigenic exposure within the latently infected TG. We hypothesized that the low-level expression of gB from its native promoter before viral DNA synthesis is critical for the retention and activation of gB-CD8 cells in the TG during HSV-1 latency and for their ability to block HSV-1 reactivation from latency. To test this, we created a recombinant HSV-1 in which gB is expressed only after viral DNA synthesis from the true late gC promoter (gCp-gB). Despite minor growth differences compared to its rescuant in infected corneas, gCp-gB was significantly growth impaired in the TG and produced a reduced latent genome load. The gCp-gB- and rescuant-infected mice mounted similar gB-CD8 effector responses, but the size and activation phenotypes of the memory gB-CD8 cells were diminished in gCp-gB latently infected TG, suggesting that the stimulation of gB-CD8 cells requires gB expression before viral DNA synthesis. Surprisingly, late gB expression did not compromise the capacity of gB-CD8 cells to inhibit HSV-1 reactivation from latency in ex vivo TG cultures, suggesting that gB-CD8 cells can block HSV-1 reactivation at a very late stage in the viral life cycle. These data have implications for designing better immunogens for vaccines to prevent HSV-1 reactivation.