Although mucosal CD8+ T-cell responses are important in combating mucosal infections, the generation of such immune responses by vaccination remains problematic. In the present study, we evaluated the ability of plasmid DNA to induce local and systemic antigen-specific CD8+ T-cell responses after pulmonary administration. We show that the pulmonary delivery of plasmid DNA formulated with polyethyleneimine (PEI-DNA) induced robust systemic CD8+ T-cell responses that were comparable in magnitude to those generated by intramuscular (i.m.) immunization. Most importantly, we observed that the pulmonary delivery of PEI-DNA elicited a 10-fold-greater antigen-specific CD8+ T-cell response in lungs and draining lymph nodes of mice than that of i.m. immunization. The functional evaluation of these pulmonary CD8+ T cells revealed that they produced type I cytokines, and pulmonary immunization with PEI-DNA induced lung-associated antigen-specific CD4+ T cells that produced higher levels of interleukin-2 than those induced by i.m. immunization. Pulmonary PEI-DNA immunization also induced CD8+ T-cell responses in the gut and vaginal mucosa. Finally, pulmonary, but not i.m., plasmid DNA vaccination protected mice from a lethal recombinant vaccinia virus challenge. These findings suggest that pulmonary PEI-DNA immunization might be a useful approach for immunizing against pulmonary pathogens and might also protect against infections initiated at other mucosal sites.