Adenovirus vectors have been used to transfer genes into both hematopoietic progenitor cells and tumor cells, including carcinoma cells that have metastasized to bone marrow (BM). However, the relative susceptibility of different subsets of hematopoietic cells is unknown. In permissive cells adenoviral-mediated gene transfer is mediated by the coxsackievirus and adenovirus receptor (CAR) protein and alpha(v) integrins expressed on the cell surface of the target cells. This prompted us to investigate the expression of CAR on subpopulations of hematopoietic cells, determine whether this protein played a role in adenovirus-mediated gene transfer of hematopoietic cells and whether we could modulate CAR to enhance gene transfer efficiency. In this report we show that CAR is expressed on approximately 40% of all human BM cells, including erythroid and myeloid cells, but not lymphoid cells. Of the CD34(+) cells, 10%-15% expressed CAR, but this did not include most colony-forming progenitor cells, nor the most primitive CD38(-) subpopulation. The presence of CAR correlated well with gene transfer efficiency, but we were unable to induce CAR expression on immature, noncommitted progenitor cells. In conclusion, our results show that primitive hematopoietic progenitor cells lack CAR expression, but that expression is acquired during erythroid and myeloid differentiation.