The ability of mucosally delivered plasmid DNA encoding glycoprotein B (gB) of herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) to generate systemic as well as distal mucosal immunity was evaluated. BALB/c mice were immunized intranasally (i.n.) with gB DNA or DNA expressing beta-galactosidase (beta-Gal). Two days following immunization, gB and beta-Gal gene expression was detected by reverse transcription (RT)-PCR in lungs and cervical lymph nodes (CLN). Histological analysis showed that beta-Gal protein was expressed in vivo in the lungs and the CLN of animals immunized with i.n. administered beta-Gal DNA. The immune responses generated by i.n. administration of gB DNA with or without cholera toxin (CT) were compared to those generated by intramuscular (i.m.) gB DNA and i.n. live HSV administration. Three i.n. doses of gB DNA over a 3-week period resulted in a distal mucosal immunoglobulin A (IgA) response. In addition, the mucosal IgA response was enhanced by coadministration of CT with gB DNA. The i.m. route of immunization induced a strong IgG response in the serum and vagina but was inefficient in generating a mucosal IgA response. Antigen-specific cytokine ELISPOT analyses as well as the serum IgG1/IgG2a ratio indicated induction of stronger Th2 responses following the additional i.n. administration of CT compared to i.n. or i.m. gB DNA or i.n. live HSV immunization. In addition, mucosal immunization with gB DNA induced anti-HSV cell-mediated immunity in vivo as measured by delayed-type hypersensitivity. Although i.n. DNA immunization was an effective means of inducing mucosal antibody, it was inferior to i.m. DNA delivery in providing protection against lethal HSV challenge via the vaginal route. In addition, both i.m. and i.n. plasmid immunizations failed to generate an immune barrier to viral invasion of the mucosa.