We investigated the contributions of the structural proteins of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronavirus (CoV) to protective immunity by expressing them individually and in combinations from a recombinant parainfluenza virus (PIV) type 3 vector called BHPIV3. This vector provided direct immunization of the respiratory tract, the major site of SARS transmission, replication, and disease. The BHPIV3/SARS recombinants were evaluated for immunogenicity and protective efficacy in hamsters, which support a high level of pulmonary SARS-CoV replication. A single intranasal administration of BHPIV3 expressing the SARS-CoV spike protein (S) induced a high titer of SARS-CoV-neutralizing serum antibodies, only 2-fold less than that induced by SARS-CoV infection. The expression of S with the two other putative virion envelope proteins, the matrix M and small envelope E proteins, did not augment the neutralizing antibody response. In absence of S, expression of M and E or the nucleocapsid protein N did not induce a detectable serum SARS-CoV-neutralizing antibody response. Immunization with BHPIV3 expressing S provided complete protection against SARS-CoV challenge in the lower respiratory tract and partial protection in the upper respiratory tract. This was augmented slightly by coexpression with M and E. Expression of M, E, or N in the absence of S did not confer detectable protection. These results identify S among the structural proteins as the only significant SARS-CoV neutralization antigen and protective antigen and show that a single mucosal immunization is highly protective in an experimental animal that supports efficient replication of SARS-CoV.