Adenovirus-mediated gene transfer to dendritic cells is highly efficient and often used, but the relationship among cell maturation, viral infection and expression of a transferred gene remains unclear. To study this relationship, we introduced a recombinant replication-defective adenovirus encoding the gene for green fluorescent protein to normal human immature myeloid dendritic cells. We induced maturation by the addition of TNF-alpha, IL-1beta, IL-6 and prostaglandin E2 to the medium and assessed cell maturity by the levels of the secreted p40 subunit of IL-12 and of membrane-bound CD83. We quantified the efficiency of gene expression by GFP fluorescence and analyzed the data by a mixed-model analysis of variance; the model explained more than 97% of the effects. CD83 expression and p40 secretion depended solely on incubation time and maturation medium. The cells cultured in the absence of maturation medium remained immature and maintained the ability to respond to the later addition of the maturation irrespective of adenovirus infection and transferred gene expression. This expression was independent of cell maturation. In comparison with mature cells, the transferred gene was expressed in immature dendritic cells with a lag compatible with the less effective initial step (infection and/or gene transfer) in the absence of the maturation medium rather than less effective later GFP synthesis. Expression of CD83 and p40 were unaffected by adenovirus infection and transferred gene expression. Thus, immature dendritic cells infected with recombinant adenoviruses can be matured when desired after transferred gene expression.