We compared the immunogenicity of plasmid vaccines containing multiple human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) antigens and found that covaccination with plasmids expressing HIV-1 14 kDa vpr gene product profoundly reduces antigen-specific CD8-mediated cytotoxic T-cell activity (CTL). Interestingly, Th1 type responses against codelivered antigens (pGag-Pol, pNef, etc.) encoded by the plasmid vaccines were suppressed. This suggested that vpr might compromise CD8 T-cell immunity in vivo during infection. A pilot primate vaccine study was designed to test the hypothesis to compare the following groups: unvaccinated controls, animals vaccinated without simean immunodeficiency virus (SIV)-Nef antigen plasmid, and animals covaccinated with the identical plasmid antigen and a plasmid construct encoding SIV Vpr/Vpx. Animals were subsequently challenged intrarectally with pathogenic SIVmac251 after the final vaccination of a multiple immunization protocol. Control animals were all infected and exhibited high viral loads and rapid CD4+ T-cell loss. In contrast, the Nef plasmid-vaccinated animals were also infected but exhibited preservation of CD4+ T-cells and a multilog reduction in viral load compared with controls. Animals covaccinated multiple times with the Nef vaccine and pVpr/Vpx plasmid suffered rapid and profound loss of CD4+ T-cells. These results have important implications for the design of multicomponent and particle vaccines for HIV-1 as well as for our understanding of HIV/SIV pathogenesis in vivo.