A vaccine against human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is still awaited. Although the correlates of protection remain elusive, it is likely that CD8+ T cells play an important role in the control of this infection. To firmly establish the importance of these cells in protective immunity, a means of efficient elicitation of CD8+ T cell responses in the absence of antibody is needed and, when available, might represent a crucial step towards a protective vaccine. Here, a novel vaccine candidate was constructed as a multi-cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) epitope gene delivered and expressed using modified vaccinia virus Ankara (MVA). The immunogen consists of 20 human, one murine and three rhesus macaque epitopes. The non-human epitopes were included so that the vaccine can be tested for immunogenicity and optimal vaccination doses, routes and regimes in experimental animals. Mice were immunized intravenously (i.v.) or intramuscularly (i.m.) using a single dose of 10(6) p.f.u. of the recombinant MVA and the induction of CTL was assessed. It was demonstrated that both administration routes induced specific CTL responses and that the i.v. route was moderately more immunogenic than the i.m. route. The frequencies of ex vivo splenocytes producing interferon-y upon MHC class I-restricted peptide stimulation were determined using an ELISPOT assay. Also, the correct processing and presentation of some HLA-restricted epitopes in human cells was confirmed.