The roles of methionine enkephalin, as an immunomodulator, on immunodeficiency virus-induced apoptosis of lymphocytes during prolonged infection are still unclear. In the present study, we evaluated the effects of methionine enkephalin on the viability, the profile of cell cycle and apoptosis, as well as the expression of apoptosis-related genes in CEM × 174 cells infected with simian immunodeficiency virus for 72 h. Our data demonstrated that methionine enkephalin maintains the viability of cells during the period of prolonged infection. Following co-incubation with the virus, CEM × 174 cells were arrested at S phase, with increased mortality as a result of apoptosis. Methionine enkephalin could abolish virus-induced over-expression of caspase-3. Taken together all findings, we conclude that methionine enkephalin may maintain the viability of SIV-infected cells via suppressing the expression of caspase-3, which may have clinical implications in opioid peptide therapy for AIDS.