The cross-species transfer of a H5N1 influenza virus from birds to humans, and the systemic spread of this virus in mice, has accelerated the efforts to devise protective strategies against lethal influenza viruses. DNA vaccination with the highly conserved nucleoprotein gene appears to provide cross protection against influenza A viruses in murine models. Whether such vaccines would protect human hosts against different influenza A viruses, including strains with pandemic potential, is unclear. Our aim in this study is to evaluate the ability of a combination DNA vaccine consisting of two plasmids encoding the HA genes from two different subtypes and a DNA vaccine encoding the viral nucleoprotein gene from a H5 virus to induce protection against highly lethal infection caused by H5 and H7 influenza viruses in chickens. Chickens given a single dose of plasmids expressing H5 and H7 hemagglutinins protected the birds from infection by either subtype. However, birds immunized with nucleoprotein DNA and challenged with either A/Ck/Vic/1/85(H7N7) or A/Ty/Ir/1/83 (H5N8) showed definite signs of infection, suggesting inadequate immunity against viral infection. Fifty percent of the nucleoprotein DNA immunized birds survived infection by influenza A/Ty/Ir/1/83 (H5N8) virus (virus of same subtype) while 42% survived infection by influenza A/Ck/Vic/1/85/(H7N7) virus (virus of a different subtype). These studies demonstrate that immunization with DNA encoding a type-specific gene may not be effective against either homologous or heterologous strains of virus, particularly if the challenge virus causes a highly lethal infection. However, the combination of HA subtype vaccines are effective against lethal infection caused by viruses expressing any of the HA subtypes used in the combination preparation.