An experimental vaccine consisting of five DNA plasmids expressing different combinations and forms of simian immunodeficiency virus-macaque (SIVmac) proteins has been evaluated for the ability to protect against a highly pathogenic uncloned SIVmac251 challenge. One vaccine plasmid encoded nonreplicating SIVmac239 virus particles. The other four plasmids encoded secreted forms of the envelope glycoproteins of two T-cell-tropic relatives (SIVmac239 and SIVmac251) and one monocyte/macrophage-tropic relative (SIVmac316) of the uncloned challenge virus. Rhesus macaques were inoculated with DNA at 1 and 3, 11 and 13, and 21 and 23 weeks. Four macaques were inoculated intravenously, intramuscularly, and by gene gun inoculations. Three received only gene gun inoculations. Two control monkeys were inoculated with control plasmids by all three routes of inoculation. Neutralizing antibody titers of 1:216 to 1:768 were present in all of the vaccinated monkeys after the second cluster of inoculations. These titers were transient, were not boosted by the third cluster of inoculations, and had fallen to 1:24 to 1:72 by the time of challenge. Cytotoxic T-cell activity for Env was also raised in all of the vaccinated animals. The temporal appearance of cytotoxic T cells was similar to that of antibody. However, while antibody responses fell with time, cytotoxic T-cell responses persisted. The SIVmac251 challenge was administered intravenously at 2 weeks following the last immunization. The DNA immunizations did not prevent infection or protect against CD4+ cell loss. Long-term chronic levels of infection were similar in the vaccinated and control animals, with 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 100,000 peripheral blood cells carrying infectious virus. However, viral loads were reduced to the chronic level over a shorter period of time in the vaccinated groups (6 weeks) than in the control group (12 weeks). Thus, the DNA vaccine raised both neutralizing antibody and cytotoxic T-lymphocyte responses and provided some attenuation of the acute phase of infection, but it did not prevent the loss of CD4+ cells.