Cross-protection against a lethal influenza virus infection was examined in BALB/c mice immunized with plasmid DNAs encoding the neuraminidase (NA) from different subtype A viruses. Each NA-DNA was administered twice, 3 weeks apart, at the dose of 1 microg per mouse by particle-mediated DNA transfer to the epidermis (gene gun) or at a dose of 30 microg per mouse by electroporation into the muscle. Three weeks after the second vaccination, the mice were challenged with lethal doses of homologous or heterologous viruses and the ability of each NA-DNA to protect the mice from influenza was evaluated by determining the lung virus titers, body weight and survival rates. The H3N2 virus NA-DNA conferred cross-protection against lethal challenge with antigenic variants within the same subtype, but failed to provide protection against infection by a different subtype virus (H1N1). The degree of cross-protection against infection was related to titers of the cross-reacting antibodies. These results suggest that NA-DNA can be used as a vaccine component to provide effective protection against infection not only with homologous virus but also with drift viruses.