Gene transfer into early hematopoietic cells has been problematic due to the quiescent nature of primitive cells and the lack of gene transfer vehicles with high efficiency for hematopoietic cell types. Previously, we have shown that adenoviral vectors can be used for the transduction of normal human progenitors with gene transfer efficiencies of approximately 30%. However, this approach is limited by relatively slow uptake kinetics (24-48 h) and a strong dependence on the presence of exogenous cytokines. Thus, we have modified this approach by combining adenoviral vectors with polycations to generate a virus-polycation complex, or VPC. Vehicles of this nature, when composed of conventional adenoviral vectors and polyamidoamine dendrimers, are a highly efficient means of transducing both normal and acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) cells. Moreover, the kinetics of gene transfer are markedly increased using the VPC strategy, with approximately 70% of transduction complete within 2 h. In this study, using viruses that encode green fluorescence protein (GFP), or the T cell costimulatory molecule B7.1 (CD80), we show that VPC-mediated gene transfer is an effective means of transducing normal and AML cells, including those with a highly primitive phenotype. Our data suggest that transient genetic manipulation of primitive hematopoietic cells can readily be achieved and should therefore permit a variety of research and clinical endeavors.