Interleukin-21 (IL-21) is a novel cytokine that can induce proliferation of activated T cells and maturation of natural killer (NK) cells. We therefore examined whether expression of the IL-21 gene in tumor cells could generate antitumor responses. Murine colon carcinoma Colon 26 cells that were transduced with the mouse IL-21 gene (Colon 26/IL-21) were rejected in syngeneic mice and the mice subsequently acquired protective immunity. The growth of Colon 26/IL-21 tumors developed in nude mice was retarded compared with that of parent tumors, and this growth suppression was not observed in nude mice that were treated with anti-asialo GM(1) antibody. Spleen cells from the mice that had rejected Colon 26/IL-21 cells showed cytotoxic activity to Colon 26 but not to irrelevant tumor cells, and produced larger amounts of interferon-gamma upon stimulation with irradiated Colon 26 cells. Spleen cells from Colon 26/IL-21-tumor- but not parent-tumor-bearing mice had lytic activity to YAC-1 cells. These data suggest that expression of IL-21 in tumors induces T- and NK-cell-dependent antitumor effects.