DNA vaccination using vectors expressing the gag/pol and env genes of feline leukaemia virus (FeLV) and plasmids encoding feline interleukin-12 (IL-12) and IL-18 completely protected cats from viraemia following challenge [Hanlon L, Argyle D, Bain D, Nicolson L, Dunham S, Golder MC, et al. Feline leukaemia virus DNA vaccine efficacy is enhanced by coadministration with interleukin-12 (IL-12) and IL-18 expression vectors. J Virol 2001;75:8424-33]. However, the relative contribution of each cytokine gene towards protection is unknown. This study aimed to resolve this issue. IL-12 and IL-18 constructs were modified to ensure effective expression, and bioactivity was demonstrated using specific assays. Kittens were immunised intramuscularly with FeLV DNA and various cytokine constructs. Together with control kittens, these were challenged oronasally with FeLV and monitored for 15 weeks. All six kittens given FeLV, IL-12 and IL-18 were protected from the establishment of persistent viraemia and four from latent infection. Of six kittens immunised with FeLV DNA and IL-18, all were protected from viraemia and five from latent infection. In contrast, three of five kittens given FeLV DNA and IL-12 became persistently viraemic. Therefore, the adjuvant effect on the FeLV DNA vaccine appears to reside in the expression of IL-18.