The central nervous system (CNS) is a predominant site of involvement in several lysosomal storage diseases (LSDs); and for many patients, these diseases are diagnosed only after the onset of symptoms related to the progressive accumulation of macromolecules within lysosomes. The mucopolysaccharidosis type VII (MPS VII) mice are deficient for the lysosomal enzyme beta-glucuronidase and, by early adulthood, develop a significant degree of glycosaminoglycan storage within neuronal, glial, and leptomeningeal cells. Using this animal model, we investigated whether gene transfer mediated by a recombinant adeno-associated virus (rAAV) vector is capable of reversing the progression of storage lesions within the CNS. Adult MPS VII mice received intracerebral injections of 4 X 10(7) infectious units of a rAAV vector carrying the murine beta-glucuronidase (gus-s(a)) cDNA under the transcriptional direction of the cytomegalovirus immediate-early promoter and enhancer. By 1 month after vector administration, transgene-derived beta-glucuronidase was present surrounding the injection site. Enzyme levels were between 50 and 240% of that found in wild-type mice. This level of beta-glucuronidase activity was sufficient to reduce the degree of lysosomal storage. Moreover, the reduction in storage was maintained for at least 3 months post-rAAV administration. These data demonstrate that rAAV vectors can transduce the diseased CNS of MPS VII mice and mediate levels of transgene expression necessary for a therapeutic response. Thus, rAAV vectors are potential tools in the treatment of the mucopolysaccharidoses and other lysosomal storage diseases.