Early vaccination is necessary to protect pigs against postweaning diarrhoea caused by enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC). However, at preset no commercial vaccine allows successful vaccination. This is partly due to the presence of maternally derived antibodies. Since DNA vaccines are suggested to be superior to protein vaccines in young animals with maternal antibodies, we determined whether the fimbrial adhesin (FaeG) of F4ac(+) ETEC could be used as a plasmid DNA vaccine to prime piglets in a heterologous prime-boost approach. Hereto, pcDNA1/faeG19 was constructed and expression of rFaeG in Cos-7 cells was demonstrated. Thereafter, pigs were immunised (days 0, 21 and 42) intramuscularly by injection or intradermally by gene gun and humoral and cellular immune responses were analysed. Even though responses were low, results demonstrated that intramuscular injection was superior to gene gun delivery for priming the humoral immune response since higher antibody titres were raised, whereas gene gun delivery better induced a cellular response, evaluated by a lymphocyte proliferation assay. Effective priming of the humoral immune response was evidenced by high IgG titres 1 week after a protein boost with purified F4. The low responses to the pcDNA1/faeG19 DNA vaccination suggest that delivery of the DNA and/or the expression of the faeG gene should be improved. (C) 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.