Transient transfection of 293T cells was utilized to produce high-titer murine recombinant retroviral vectors for clinical studies. This system was initially optimized by gene transfer using different retroviral envelope proteins into activated human CD4+ T lymphocytes in vitro. Higher titer and infectivity were obtained than with stable murine producer lines; titers of 0.3-1 x 10(7) infectious units per milliliter for vectors encoding the green fluorescent protein (GFP) were achieved. Virions pseudotyped with envelope proteins from gibbon ape leukemia virus or amphotropic murine leukemia virus resulted in gene transfer of > or = 50% in CD4+ human T lymphocytes with this marker. Gene transfer of Rev M10 with this vector conferred resistance to HIV infection compared with negative controls in the absence of drug selection. Thus, the efficiency of transduction achieved under these conditions obviated the need to include selection to detect biologic effects in T cells. Finally, a protocol for the production of large-scale supernatants using transient transfection was optimized up to titers of 1.9 x 10(7) IU/ml. These packaging cells can be used to generate high-titer virus in sufficient quantities for clinical studies and will facilitate the rapid, cost-effective generation of improved retroviral, lentiviral, or other viral vectors for human gene therapy.