We demonstrated that peripheral T cell tolerance toward murine melanoma self-antigens gp100 and TRP-2 can be broken by an autologous oral DNA vaccine containing the murine ubiquitin gene fused to minigenes encoding peptide epitopes gp100(25-33) and TRP-2(181-188). These epitopes contain dominant anchor residues for MHC class I antigen alleles H-2D(b) and H-2K(b), respectively. The DNA vaccine was delivered by oral gavage by using an attenuated strain of Salmonella typhimurium as carrier. Tumor-protective immunity was mediated by MHC class I antigen-restricted CD8(+) T cells that secreted T(H)1 cytokine IFN-gamma and induced tumor rejection and growth suppression after a lethal challenge with B16G3. 26 murine melanoma cells. Importantly, the protective immunity induced by this autologous DNA vaccine against murine melanoma cells was at least equal to that achieved through xenoimmunization with the human gp100(25-33) peptide, which differs in its three NH(2)-terminal amino acid residues from its murine counterpart and was previously reported to be clearly superior to an autologous vaccine in inducing protective immunity. The presence of ubiquitin upstream of the minigene proved to be essential for achieving this tumor-protective immunity, suggesting that effective antigen processing and presentation may make it possible to break peripheral T cell tolerance to a self-antigen. This vaccine design might prove useful for future rational designs of other recombinant DNA vaccines targeting tissue differentiation antigens expressed by tumors.