DNA vaccines, based on plasmid vectors expressing an antigen under the control of a strong promoter, have been shown to induce protective immune responses to a number of pathogens, including viruses, bacteria and parasites. They have also displayed efficacy in treatment or prevention of cancer, allergic diseases and autoimmunity. Immunologically, DNA vaccines induce a full spectrum of immune responses that include cytolytic T cells, T helper cells and antibodies. The immune response to DNA vaccines can be enhanced by genetic engineering of the antigen to facilitate its presentation to B and T cells. Furthermore, the immune response can be modulated by genetic adjuvants in the form of vectors expressing biologically active determinants or by more traditional adjuvants that facilitate uptake of DNA into cells. The ease of genetic manipulation of DNA vaccines invites their use not only as vaccines but also as research tools for immunologists and microbiologists.