The cell-mediated immune profile induced by a recombinant DNA vaccine was assessed in the simian/HIV (SHIV) and macaque model. The vaccine strategy included coimmunization of a DNA-based vaccine alone or in combination with an optimized plasmid encoding macaque IL-15 (pmacIL-15). We observed strong induction of vaccine-specific IFN-gamma-producing CD8(+) and CD4(+) effector T cells in the vaccination groups. Animals were subsequently challenged with 89.6p. The vaccine groups were protected from ongoing infection, and the IL-15 covaccinated group showed a more rapidly controlled infection than the group treated with DNA vaccine alone. Lymphocytes isolated from the group covaccinated with pmacIL-15 had higher cellular proliferative responses than lymphocytes isolated from the macaques that received SHIV DNA alone. Vaccine antigen activation of lymphocytes was also studied for a series of immunological molecules. Although mRNA for IFN-gamma was up-regulated after antigen stimulation, the inflammatory molecules IL-8 and MMP-9 were down-regulated. These observed immune profiles are potentially reflective of the ability of the different groups to control SHIV replication. This study demonstrates that an optimized IL-15 immune adjuvant delivered with a DNA vaccine can impact the cellular immune profile in nonhuman primates and lead to enhanced suppression of viral replication.