Because the vaccine vectors currently being evaluated in human populations all have significant limitations in their immunogenicity, novel vaccine strategies are needed for the elicitation of cell-mediated immunity. The nonpathogenic, rapidly growing mycobacterium Mycobacterium smegmatis was engineered as a vector expressing full-length human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) HXBc2 envelope protein. Immunization of mice with recombinant M. smegmatis led to the expansion of major histocompatibility complex class I-restricted HIV-1 epitope-specific CD8+ T cells that were cytolytic and secreted gamma interferon. Effector and memory T lymphocytes were elicited, and repeated immunization generated a stable central memory pool of virus-specific cells. Importantly, preexisting immunity to Mycobacterium bovis BCG had only a marginal effect on the immunogenicity of recombinant M. smegmatis. This mycobacterium may therefore be a useful vaccine vector.