Prolonged exposure of human hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) to growth factors for efficient transduction by murine oncoretroviral vectors has major detrimental effects on repopulating activity. In this study, we have used a vesicular stomatitis virus G envelope protein (VSV-G)-pseudotyped human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) lentiviral-based vector system to transduce cord blood (CB) CD34+ cells over a limited time period (< or =24 hours). Under these conditions, significant gene marking was observed in engrafted human lymphoid, myeloid, and progenitor cells in all transplanted Severe Combined Immunodeficient (SCID) mice. To enhance the level of gene expression in hematopoietic cells, we also generated a series of lentiviral vectors incorporating the spleen focus forming virus (SFFV) long terminal repeat (LTR) sequences, and the Woodchuck hepatitis virus posttranscriptional regulatory element (WPRE). By including the central polypurine tract (cPPT) sequence of HIV-1 we were then able to achieve high levels of transduction (over 80%) and gene expression in vivo after a single exposure to viral supernatant. These results demonstrate that lentiviral vectors are highly effective for gene transfer to human HSC, and that SFFV regulatory sequences can be successfully incorporated to enhance the long-term expression of a transgene in primary human hematopoietic cells in vivo.