Intramuscular injection with plasmid DNA encoding the human thyrotropin receptor (TSHR) has been known to elicit symptoms of Graves' disease (GD) in outbred but not inbred mice. In this study, we have examined, firstly, whether intradermal (i.d.) injection of TSHR DNA can induce hyperthyroidism in BALB/c mice and, secondly, whether coinjection of TSHR- and cytokine-producing plasmids can influence the outcome of disease. Animals were i.d. challenged at 0, 3 and 6 weeks with TSHR DNA and the immune response was assessed at the end of the 8th or 10th week. In two experiments, a total of 10 (67%) of 15 mice developed TSHR-specific antibodies as assessed by flow cytometry. Of these, 4 (27%) mice had elevated thyroxine (TT4) levels and goitrous thyroids with activated follicular epithelial cells but no evidence of lymphocytic infiltration. At 10 weeks, thyroid-stimulating antibodies (TSAb) were detected in two out of the four hyperthyroid animals. Interestingly, in mice that received a coinjection of TSHR- and IL-2- or IL-4-producing plasmids, there was no production of TSAbs and no evidence of hyperthyroidism. On the other hand, coinjection of DNA plasmids encoding TSHR and IL-12 did not significantly enhance GD development since two out of seven animals became thyrotoxic, but had no goitre. These results demonstrate that i.d. delivery of human TSHR DNA can break tolerance and elicit GD in inbred mice. The data do not support the notion that TSAb production is Th2-dependent in murine GD but they also suggest that codelivery of TSHR and Th1-promoting IL-12 genes may not be sufficient to enhance disease incidence and/or severity in this model.