Epidemiological studies have demonstrated that co-infections of herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) and Chlamydia trachomatis occur in vivo. Data from a tissue culture model of C. trachomatis/HSV-2 co-infection indicate that viral co-infection stimulates the formation of persistent chlamydiae. Transmission electron microscopic (TEM) analyses demonstrated that in both HeLa and HEC-1B cells, co-infection caused developing chlamydiae to exhibit swollen, aberrantly shaped reticulate bodies (RBs), characteristically observed in persistence. Additionally, HSV-2 co-infection suppressed production of infectious chlamydial elementary bodies (EBs) in both host cell types. Co-infection with HSV type 1 (HSV-1) produced similar morphologic alterations and abrogated infectious EB production. These data indicate that virus-induced chlamydial persistence was neither host cell- nor virus strain-specific. Purification of crude HSV-2 stocks demonstrated that viral particles were required for coinfection-induced chlamydial persistence to occur. Finally, co-infection with either UV-inactivated, replication-incompetent virus or replication-competent HSV-2 in the presence of cyclohexamide reduced chlamydial infectivity without altering chlamydial genomic DNA accumulation. These data demonstrate that productive viral replication is not required for the induction of chlamydial persistence and suggest that HSV attachment and entry can provide the necessary stimulus to alter C. trachomatis development.