In order to investigate the immunological consequences of gene transfer to the eye using viral vectors, adenovirus carrying a lacZ reporter gene (AV.LacZ) was injected either subretinally, subconjunctivally or into the anterior chamber of three groups of adult mice: immunocompetent or transiently immunosuppressed BALB/c mice and congenic immunodeficient nude mice. Adenovirally mediated lacZ expression persisted for approximately 3 weeks following injection of the vector into the anterior chamber, retina or extra ocular tissues of the conjuctiva of BALB/c mice. It appears that T cell-mediated immune responses limit the duration of AV-mediated ocular gene expression in adult mice since lacZ gene expression was detected for at least 15 weeks in T cell-deficient BALB/c nude mice, although the level of transgene expression decreased with time. Since intra-ocular AV-mediated gene expression was not significantly longer than extra-ocular expression, it appears that the eye is not normally immune-privileged with respect to viral vectors. Inflammatory cells were detected in the vitreous after anterior chamber injection and in the retina after subretinal injection of adenovirus. The presence of both CD4+ and CD8+ T cells was established by immunophenotyping. Reinjection of BALB/c mice resulted in rapid decline in reporter gene expression, but successful readministration was possible in the case of immunodeficient nude mice. However, after transient depletion of T cells, achieved by intraperitoneal injection of both CD8- and CD4-specific antibodies, the duration of expression in BALB/c mice was longer in the eye (at least 12 weeks, again with decrease in level over time), than in extra-ocular tissues (8 weeks) provided the animal was not reinjected with virus raising the possibility of partial ocular immune-privilege after transient immunosuppression.