The meta 1 gene of Leishmania is conserved across the genus and encodes a protein upregulated in metacyclic promastigotes. Meta 1 constitutive overexpressing mutants show increased virulence to mice. In this paper, both meta 1 recombinant protein and plasmids bearing the meta 1 gene were tested for their antigenicity and potential for inducing protective immunity in mice. Vaccination with the recombinant protein induced a predominant Th2-type of response and did not result in protection upon challenge with live parasites. Surprisingly, the expected reversal to a CD4(+) Th1-type of response upon genetic immunisation by the intramuscular route was not observed. Instead, vaccination with either the meta 1 gene alone or in fusion with the monocyte chemotactic protein (MCP)-3 cDNA induced a Th2-type of response that correlated with lack of protection against infection.