The ability of plasmid DNA encoding hemagglutinin (HA), neuraminidase (NA) or matrix protein (M1) from influenza virus A/PR/8/34 (PR8) (H1N1), and mixtures of these plasmid DNAs (HA + NA and HA + NA + M1) to protect against homologous or heterologous virus infection was examined in BALB/c mice. Each DNA was inoculated twice, 3 weeks apart, or four times, 2 weeks apart, at a dose of 1 microg of each component per mouse by particle-mediated DNA transfer to the epidermis (gene gun). Seven days after the last immunization, mice were challenged with a lethal homologous or heterologous virus and the ability of each DNA to protect the mice from influenza was evaluated by observing lung virus titers and survival rates. The administration of a plasmid DNA mixture of either (HA + NA) or (HA + NA + M1) provided almost complete protection against the PR8 virus challenge, and this protection was accompanied by high levels of specific antibody responses to the respective components. The degree of protection afforded in these groups is significantly higher than that in mice given either HA- or NA-expressing DNA alone, which provided only a partial protection against PR8 challenge or that in mice given M1-expressing DNA, which failed to provide any protection. In addition, both of the plasmid DNA mixtures (HA + NA) and (HA + NA + M1) showed a slight tendency to provide cross-protection against an A/Yamagata/120/86 (H1N1) virus challenge, and this was accompanied by a relatively high level of cross-reacting antibodies. Thus, there was no clear difference between the ability of the HA + NA and HA + NA + M1 plasmid DNA mixtures in providing protection against either a PR8 or heterologous virus challenge. These results suggest that in mice immunized by gene gun, a mixture of plasmid DNAs encoding HA and NA can provide the most effective protection against the virus challenge. The addition of the M -expressing plasmid DNA to this mixture does not enhance the degree of protection afforded.