RNA interference (RNAi) has recently emerged as a specific and efficient method to silence gene expression in mammalian cells either by transfection of short interfering RNAs (siRNAs; ref. 1) or, more recently, by transcription of short hairpin RNAs (shRNAs) from expression vectors and retroviruses. But the resistance of important cell types to transduction by these approaches, both in vitro and in vivo, has limited the use of RNAi. Here we describe a lentiviral system for delivery of shRNAs into cycling and non-cycling mammalian cells, stem cells, zygotes and their differentiated progeny. We show that lentivirus-delivered shRNAs are capable of specific, highly stable and functional silencing of gene expression in a variety of cell types and also in transgenic mice. Our lentiviral vectors should permit rapid and efficient analysis of gene function in primary human and animal cells and tissues and generation of animals that show reduced expression of specific genes. They may also provide new approaches for gene therapy.