The induction of strong CD8(+) T-cell responses against infectious diseases and cancer has remained a major challenge. Depending on the source of antigen and the infectious agent, priming of CD8(+) T cells requires direct and/or cross-presentation of antigenic peptides on major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I molecules by professional antigen-presenting cells (APCs). However, both pathways show distinct preferences concerning antigen stability. Whereas direct presentation was shown to efficiently present peptides derived from rapidly degraded proteins, cross-presentation is dependent on long-lived antigen species. In this report, we analyzed the role of antigen stability on DNA vaccination and recombinant vaccinia virus (VV) infection using altered versions of the same antigen. The long-lived nucleoprotein (NP) of lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) can be targeted for degradation by N-terminal fusion to ubiquitin or, as we show here, to the ubiquitin-like modifier FAT10. Direct presentation by cells either transfected with NP-encoding plasmids or infected with recombinant VV in vitro was enhanced in the presence of short-lived antigens. In vivo, however, the highest induction of NP-specific CD8(+) T-cell responses was achieved in the presence of long-lived NP. Our experiments provide evidence that targeting antigens for proteasomal degradation does not improve the immunogenicity of DNA vaccines and recombinant VVs. Rather, it is the long-lived antigen that is superior for the efficient activation of MHC class I-restricted immune responses in vivo. Hence, our results suggest a dominant role for antigen cross-priming in DNA vaccination and recombinant VV infection.