Electrotransfer is a simple and efficient strategy of nonviral gene delivery. We have used this method to deliver plasmids encoding three human tumor necrosis factor-alpha soluble receptor I variants (hTNFR-Is) a monomeric hTNFR-Is, a chimeric hTNFR-Is/mIgG1, and a dimeric (hTNFR-Is)(2) form. Electrotransfer parameters were studied and because anti-TNF strategies have proven efficient for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis in clinics, we used a collagen-induced arthritis (CIA) mouse model to assess the efficacy of our constructs in the treatment of the disease. All proteins were proven bioactive, both in vitro and ex vivo. Plasmid intramuscular electrotransfer in mice resulted in a local expression of the three variants for at least 6 months; systemic expression lasted also more than 6 months for the hTNFR-Is/mIgG1 form, while it was shorter for the two other forms. This expression was plasmid dose-dependent. Electrotransfer of 50 microg of hTNFR-Is/mIgG1 at the onset of a CIA induced a clear-cut decrease in both clinical and histologic signs of the disease; the dimeric form also showed some efficacy. Moreover, the long-lasting protective effect was observed for more than 5 weeks. Comparison of this electrotransfer approach with repeated recombinant protein (etanercept) injections highlighted the potential practical interest of gene therapy approach for CIA, which leads to sustained therapeutic effect after single treatment. These results show that electrotransfer may be a useful method to deliver cytokine or anticytokine therapy in rheumatoid arthritis and also illustrate the potentiality of plasmid intramuscular electrotransfer for the rapid screening and assessment of different variant forms of secreted proteins.