A variety of imaging technologies are being investigated as tools for studying gene expression in living subjects. Noninvasive, repetitive and quantitative imaging of gene expression will help both to facilitate human gene therapy trials and to allow for the study of animal models of molecular and cellular therapy. Radionuclide approaches using single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) and positron emission tomography (PET) are the most mature of the current imaging technologies and offer many advantages for imaging gene expression compared to optical and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)-based approaches. These advantages include relatively high sensitivity, full quantitative capability (for PET), and the ability to extend small animal assays directly into clinical human applications. We describe a PET scanner (microPET) designed specifically for studies of small animals. We review "marker/reporter gene" imaging approaches using the herpes simplex type 1 virus thymidine kinase (HSV1-tk) and the dopamine type 2 receptor (D2R) genes. We describe and contrast several radiolabeled probes that can be used with the HSV1-tk reporter gene both for SPECT and for PET imaging. We also describe the advantages/disadvantages of each of the assays developed and discuss future animal and human applications.