We have recently described the production of hepatitis C virus-like particles (HCV-LPs) in insect cells that resemble the putative virions. Here we evaluate the humoral and cellular immunogenicity of the virus-like particles with or without viral p7 protein, a small viral polypeptide that resides between the structural and nonstructural regions of the HCV polyprotein and whose function has not been defined. Immunized BALB/c mice developed high titers of anti-E2 antibodies and virus-specific cellular immune responses including cytotoxic T lymphocytes and T helper responses with gamma interferon production. The virus-like particles without p7 generated a higher cellular immune response with a more T(H)1 profile than the particles with p7. Immunization of heat-denatured particles resulted in substantially lower humoral and cellular responses, suggesting that the immunogenicity is strongly dependent on particle formation. Administration of CpG oligonucleotide or cationic lipid 3beta-[N-(N',N'-dimethylaminoethane)carbamoyl]cholesterol (DC-Chol), two potent adjuvants, did not significantly enhance the immunogenicity of HCV-LPs. Our results indicate that HCV-LPs can induce humoral and cellular immune responses and offer a promising approach to vaccine development.