The endotheliotropism of equine herpesvirus-1 (EHV-1) leads to encephalomyelitis secondary to vasculitis and thrombosis in the infected horse central nervous system (CNS). To identify the host factors involved in EHV-1 infection of CNS endothelial cells, we performed functional cloning using an equine brain microvascular endothelial cell cDNA library. Exogenous expression of equine major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I heavy chain genes conferred susceptibility to EHV-1 infection in mouse NIH3T3 cells, which are not naturally susceptible to EHV-1 infection. Equine MHC class I molecules bound to EHV-1 glycoprotein D (gD), and both anti-gD antibodies and a soluble form of gD blocked viral entry into NIH3T3 cells stably expressing the equine MHC class I heavy chain gene (3T3-A68 cells). Treatment with an anti-equine MHC class I monoclonal antibody blocked EHV-1 entry into 3T3-A68 cells, equine dermis (E. Derm) cells and equine brain microvascular endothelial cells. In addition, inhibition of cell surface expression of MHC class I molecules in E. Derm cells drastically reduced their susceptibility to EHV-1 infection. These results suggest that equine MHC class I is a functional gD receptor that plays a pivotal role in EHV-1 entry into equine cells.