The nucleoprotein (NP) of influenza A virus is the dominant antigen recognized by influenza virus-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs), and adoptive transfer of NP-specific CTLs protects mice from influenza A virus infection. BALB/c mouse cells (H-2d) recognize a single Kd-restricted CTL epitope of NP consisting of amino acids 147 to 155. In the present study, mice were immunized with various vaccinia virus recombinant viruses to examine the effect of the induction of primary pulmonary CTLs on resistance to challenge with influenza A/Puerto Rico/8/34 virus. The minigene ESNP(147-155)-VAC construct, composed of a signal sequence from the adenovirus E3/19K glycoprotein (designated ES) and expressing the 9-amino-acid NP natural determinant (amino acids 147 to 155) preceded by an alanine residue, a similar minigene NP(Met 147-155)-VAC lacking ES, and a full-length NP-VAC recombinant of influenza virus were analyzed. The two minigene NP-VAC recombinants induced a greater primary pulmonary CTL response than the full-length NP-VAC recombinant. However, NP-specific CTLs induced by immunization with ESNP(147-155)-VAC did not decrease peak virus titer or accelerate clearance of virus in the lungs of mice challenged intranasally with A/PR/8/34. Furthermore, NP-specific CTLs induced by immunization did not protect mice challenged intranasally with a lethal dose of A/PR/8/34. Sequence analysis of the NP CTL epitope of A/PR/8/34 challenge virus obtained from lungs after 8 days of replication in ESNP(147-155)-VAC-immunized mice showed identity with that of the input virus, demonstrating that an escape mutant had not emerged during replication in vivo. Thus, in contrast to adoptively transferred CTLs, pulmonary NP-specific CTLs induced by recombinant vaccinia virus immunization do not have protective in vivo antiviral activity against influenza virus infection.