The ability of a uniquely modified [E1-, polymerase-] adenovirus (Ad) vector to persist after the transduction of the bacterial beta-galactosidase gene into the livers of nontolerant, immune-competent adult mice was compared with an identical gene transfer attempt with an [E1-] Ad vector. After transduction, the E1-deleted vector was rapidly eliminated, but the modified vector persisted for at least 2 months (experiment duration). Modified vector persistence was also accompanied by prolonged transgene expression and decreased hepatotoxicity profiles. This result was in contrast to several reports suggesting that the transgene expressed by an Ad vector is the primary determinant of Ad vector elimination in vivo. Our results implied that the rapid immune clearance of Ad-transduced cells in vivo is codependent on the presence of two stimuli, or "hits." Hit 1 is due to Ad vector-derived gene expression while hit 2 is due to transgene immunogenicity. Attenuation of the first hit by the use of a significantly modified vector (such as the [E1-, polymerase-] Ad vector) allowed for extended persistence, despite the continued presence of the transgene-derived stimulus (hit 2). We discuss how the two-hit hypothesis is in fact congruent with a number of other reports that have analyzed Ad vector persistence in immune-competent animals. On the basis of our results, [E1-, polymerase-] Ad vectors should have broad benefits for use in human gene therapy situations in which the encoded transgene may be perceived as a neoantigen by the intact human immune system.