Owing to the rapid development of in vivo applications for nonviral gene delivery vectors, it is necessary to have a better understanding of how the structure-activity relationships of these lipid-DNA complexes are affected by their environment. Indeed, research in gene therapy first focused on in vitro cell culture studies to determine the mechanisms involved in the delivery of DNA into the cell. New biophysical techniques such as electron microscopy and X-ray diffraction have been developed to discern the structure of the lipid-DNA complex. However, further studies have revealed discrepancies between optimal lipid-DNA formulations for in vitro transfection and for in vivo administration of these vectors. Furthermore, some immune stimulatory effects have been associated with in vivo lipid-DNA administration. This review summarizes the current state of knowledge on in vitro and in vivo lipid-DNA complex transfections. New prospects of vectors for in vivo gene transfer are also discussed.