Nucleic acid immunization is a novel vaccination technique to induce antigen-specific immune responses. We have developed expression cassettes for cell surface markers CD80 and CD86, two functionally related costimulatory molecules that play an important role in the induction of T cell-mediated immune responses. Coimmunization of these expression plasmids, along with plasmid DNA encoding for HIV-1 antigens, did not result in any significant change in the humoral response; however, we observed a dramatic increase in cytotoxic T-lymphocyte (CTL) induction as well as T-helper cell proliferation after the coadministration of CD86 genes. In contrast, coimmunization with a CD80 expression cassette resulted in a minor, but positive increase in T-helper cell or CTL responses. This strategy may be of value for the generation of rationally designed vaccines and immune therapeutics.