[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: TC83 is a human vaccine with investigational new drug status and is used as a prototype Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus for pathogenesis and antiviral research. Differing from other experimental models, the virus causes high titer infection in the brain and 90-100% mortality in the C3H/HeN murine model. To better characterize the susceptibility to disease development in C3H/HeN mice, we have analyzed the gene transcriptomes and cytokine production in the brains of infected mice. Our analysis indicated the potential importance of natural killer cells in the encephalitic disease development. This paper describes for the first time a pathogenic role for natural killer cells in VEEV encephalitis.