Murine cytomegalovirus encodes numerous proteins that act on a variety of pathways to modulate the innate and adaptive immune responses. Here, we demonstrate that a chemokine-like protein encoded by murine cytomegalovirus activates the early innate immune response and delays adaptive immunity, thereby impairing viral clearance. The protein, m131/129 (also known as MCK-2), is not required to establish infection in the spleen; however, a mutant virus lacking m131/129 was cleared more rapidly from this organ. In the absence of m131/129 expression, there was enhanced activation of dendritic cells (DC), and virusspecific CD8+ T cells were recruited into the immune response earlier. Viral mutants lacking m131/129 elicited weaker production of alpha interferon (IFN-α) at 40 h postinfection, indicating that this protein exerts its effects during early rounds of viral replication in the spleen. Furthermore, while wild-type and mutant viruses activated plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDC) equally at this time, as measured by the upregulation of costimulatory molecules, the presence of m131/129 stimulated more pDC to secrete IFN-α, accounting for the stronger IFN-α response than from the wild-type virus. These data provide evidence for a novel immunomodulatory function of a viral chemokine and expose the multifunctionality of immune evasion proteins. In addition, these results broaden our understanding of the interplay between innate and adaptive immunity.