BACKGROUND DNA vaccine is a new and powerful approach to generate immunological responses against infectious disease and cancer. The T helper type (Th)1 immune response is usually required for generating effective anti-tumor responses. A microparticulate bombardment system can induce an immune response using very low amounts of DNA. Using nozzle aerodynamics, a low pressure gene gun has been developed to decrease the noise associated with high pressure gene guns. Particles are propelled by supersonic flow through this novel nozzle. To test whether this gun could inoculate a DNA vaccine that stimulates an anti-tumor Th1 immune response, we examined the effect of direct delivery of naked DNA (i.e. without any carrier) on the anti-tumor immune response of mice. METHODS The luciferase reporter plasmid DNA was delivered using a low-pressure biolistic device and expressed in C3H/HeN, BALB/c, and C57BL/6 mice. RESULTS Plasmid DNA expression was mainly in the epidermis. Noncarrier naked neu DNA vaccine and gold particle-coated neu DNA vaccine (at 1 microg per mouse) had similar anti-tumor effects in C3H mice. However, cytokine profile examination showed the Th1-bias of the response induced by naked DNA vaccine and the Th2-bias of the response induced by coated DNA vaccine. CONCLUSIONS A shift in the immune response to favour enhanced tumor rejection can be achieved by skin delivery of naked DNA vaccine.