We have examined in detail the characteristics of the humoral immune response and protective efficacy induced by an influenza hemagglutinin (HA) DNA vaccine. In mice injected intramuscularly with HA DNA, the magnitude of the immune responses generated, as measured by ELISA and hemagglutination inhibiting (HI) antibodies, was directly related to the amount of DNA injected and the number of doses administered. The level of anti-HA antibodies in DNA-vaccinated mice was higher than that in convalescent immune mice and was maintained for at least 1.5 years. The immunoglobulin isotype profile of the antibodies was predominantly IgG2a, similar to that induced by live virus infection but in contrast to the relative abundance of IgG1 antibodies observed after inoculation with formalin-inactivated whole virus. The presence of pre-challenge HI antibodies was found to be a good correlate of protection, in that every animal with a detectable HI titer was protected from a lethal challenge. Complete protection from a lethal dose of influenza virus (A/PR/34), as judged by 100% survival and no weight loss, was conferred by as little as 1 microgram of DNA (given twice). Furthermore, mice injected with 10 to 100 micrograms doses, when subsequently challenged with virus, showed no increase in HI titer and no production of antibodies directed against the challenge virus, suggesting a substantial inhibition of virus replication after challenge.