Spodoptera frugiperda SF-21 cells infected with Autographa californica nuclear polyhedrosis virus mutants which lack a functional p35 gene undergo apoptosis, a type of programmed cell death. To identify p35-homologous genes in other baculoviruses, A. californica nuclear polyhedrosis virus DNA containing a deletion in p35 was cotransfected into SF-21 cells along with genomic DNAs from other baculoviruses. One of the viral DNAs which were able to rescue wild-type infection was from Cydia pomonella granulosis virus (CpGV). The CpGV gene responsible for the effect was mapped to a 1.6-kb SalI-SstI subclone of the SalI B fragment of CpGV. The sequence of the SalI-SstI subclone revealed an open reading frame capable of encoding a polypeptide of 31 kDa which was sufficient to rescue wild-type infection; this gene was thus called iap (inhibitor of apoptosis). The predicted sequence of the IAP polypeptide exhibited no significant homology to P35 but contained a zinc finger-like motif which is also found in other genes with the potential to regulate apoptosis, including several mammalian proto-oncogenes and two insect genes involved in embryonic development. In the context of the viral genome, both iap and p35 were able to block apoptosis induced by actinomycin D, indicating that these genes act by blocking cellular apoptosis rather than by preventing viral stimulation of apoptosis. Several independent recombinant viruses derived from cotransfections with either the entire CpGV genome or the 1.6-kb subclone were characterized.