The authors examined the efficacy of Bacillus anthracis protective antigen (PA) combined with adjuvants as vaccines against an aerosol challenge of virulent anthrax spores in rhesus macaques. Adjuvants tested included i) aluminum hydroxide (Alhydrogel), ii) saponin QS-21 and iii) monophosphoryl lipid A (MPL) in squalene/lecithin/Tween 80 emulsion (SLT). Animals were immunized once with either 50 micrograms of recombinant PA plus adjuvant, or with Anthrax Vaccine Adsorbed (AVA), the licensed human anthrax vaccine. The serological response to PA was measured by enzyme linked immunosorbent assay. Lymphocyte proliferation and serum neutralization of in vitro lethal toxin cytotoxicity were also assayed. In all vaccine groups, anti-PA IgM and IgG titers peaked at 2 weeks and 4-5 weeks postimmunization, respectively. Five weeks postimmunization, animals in all vaccine groups demonstrated PA-specific lymphocyte proliferation and sera that neutralized in vitro cytotoxicity. Six weeks after immunization, the animals were challenged by aerosol with approximately 93 LD50 of virulent anthrax spores. Animals were bled daily for 1 week to monitor bacteremia, and deaths were recorded. Anti-PA ELISA titers in all groups of immunized animals were substantially increased 2 weeks after challenge. One dose of each vaccine provided significant protection (> 90%) against inhalation anthrax in the rhesus macaques.