Human immunodeficiency viral (HIV) vectors mediate long-term transduction of many types of nondividing cells in vivo. Bovine immunodeficiency virus (BIV) is a lentivirus that shares many characteristics with HIV, but does not cause human disease. In this study, we investigated the potential of BIV vectors for ocular gene therapy. An enhanced green fluorescent protein (eGFP)-encoding reporter gene was packaged in recombinant BIV vector (BIV.eGFP). Adult C57BL/6 mice were given an intravitreous (5 x 10(4) or 5 x 10(5) transducing units [TU]) or subretinal (5 x 10(5) TU) injection of BIV.eGFP and then GFP expression was assessed at several time points. In vivo examinations of mice showed that subretinal injection of BIV.eGFP resulted in strong expression of GFP from the first examination at 1 week through the final examination at 20 weeks. Only a few mice that received intravitreous injection of BIV.eGFP showed GFP expression by ocular examinations until 11-12 weeks, when most showed small areas of expression. Postmortem examinations showed prominent GFP expression in retinal pigmented epithelial (RPE) cells throughout the region of subretinal injection of vector, although occasional negatively staining RPE cells were scattered among the much more numerous, brilliantly staining cells. Ciliary epithelial cells frequently expressed GFP, as did occasional Müller cells and rarely other retinal cells. The expression was stable from the first time point (2 weeks) to the last (20 weeks). Postmortem examination of eyes given an intravitreous injection of BIV.eGFP showed transduction of cells in the corneal endothelium and a few scattered retinal cells. There was no evidence of inflammation or toxicity in any eyes. These data show that BIV vectors mediate rapid and sustained transduction of RPE cells, suggesting that they may be useful for ocular gene therapy targeting RPE cells.