In autoimmune (type 1) diabetes, autoreactive lymphocytes destroy pancreatic beta-cells responsible for insulin synthesis. To assess the feasibility of gene therapy for type 1 diabetes, recombinant vaccinia virus (rVV) vectors were constructed expressing pancreatic islet autoantigens proinsulin (INS) and a 55-kDa immunogenic peptide from glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD), and the immunomodulatory cytokine interleukin (IL)-10. To augment the beneficial effects of recombinant virus therapy, the INS and GAD genes were fused to the C terminus of the cholera toxin B subunit (CTB). Five-week-old non-obese diabetic (NOD) mice were injected once with rVV. Humoral antibody immune responses and hyperglycemia in the infected mice were analyzed. Only 20% of the mice inoculated with rVV expressing the CTB::INS fusion protein developed hyperglycemia, in comparison to 70% of the mice in the uninoculated animal group. Islets from pancreatic tissues isolated from euglycemic mice from this animal group showed no sign of inflammatory lymphocyte invasion. Inoculation with rVV producing CTB::GAD or IL-10 was somewhat less effective in reducing diabetes. Humoral antibody isotypes of hyperglycemic and euglycemic mice from all treated groups possessed similar IgG1/IgG2c antibody titer ratios from 19 to 32 wk after virus inoculation. In comparison with uninoculated mice, 11-wk-old NOD mice injected with virus expressing CTB::INS were delayed in diabetes onset by more than 4 wk. The experimental results demonstrate the feasibility of using rVV expressing CTB::INS fusion protein to generate significant protection and therapy against type 1 diabetes onset and progression.