Fas ligand (FasL) mediates apoptosis of Fas-bearing cells and is expressed on a limited number of tissues, predominantly activated T lymphocytes. We describe the construction and biological activity of a replication-deficient type-5 adenovirus encoding murine FasL under the control of the cytomegalovirus (CMV) promoter (adCMV-FasL). In vitro, Jurkat cells undergo apoptosis when co-incubated with adCMV-FasL-infected COS cells. Systemic administration of adCMV-FasL to Wistar rats or DBA/2J mice results in widespread hepatic apoptosis and death in a dose-dependent manner within 72 hr, an effect not seen in lpr mice, or animals administered equivalent doses of adCMV-beta gal. Murine pancreatic islets also undergo apoptosis when infected ex vivo with adCMV-FasL, resulting in uniform primary nonfunction when transplanted into syngeneic or allogeneic diabetic recipients. These results indicate that adCMV-FasL is a potentially useful tool to study Fas/FasL biology.