Recombinant adeno-associated virus vectors based on serotype 2 (rAAV2) can direct transgene expression in the central nervous system (CNS), but it is not known how other rAAV serotypes perform as CNS gene transfer vectors. Serotypes 4 and 5 are distinct from rAAV2 and from each other in their capsid regions, suggesting that they may direct binding and entry into different cell types. In this study, we examined the tropisms and transduction efficiencies of beta-galactosidase-encoding vectors made from rAAV4 and rAAV5 compared with similarly designed rAAV2-based vectors. Injection of rAAV5 beta-galactosidase (betagal) or rAAV4betagal into the lateral ventricle resulted in stable transduction of ependymal cells, with approximately 10-fold more positive cells than in mice injected with rAAV2betagal. Major differences between the three vectors were revealed upon striatal injections. Intrastriatal injection of rAAV4betagal resulted again in striking ependyma-specific expression of transgene, with a notable absence of transduced cells in the parenchyma. rAAV2betagal and rAAV5betagal intrastriatal injections led to beta-gal-positive parenchymal cells, but, unlike rAAV2betagal, rAAV5betagal transduced both neurons and astrocytes. The number of transgene-positive cells in rAAV5betagal-injected brains was 130 and 5,000 times higher than in rAAV2betagal-injected brains at 3 and 15 wk, respectively. Moreover, transgene-positive cells were widely dispersed throughout the injected hemisphere in rAAV5betagal-transduced animals. Together, our data provide in vivo support for earlier in vitro work, suggesting that rAAV4 and rAAV5 gain cell entry by means of receptors distinct from rAAV2. These differences could be exploited to improve gene therapy for CNS disorders.