Molecular imaging is a relatively new discipline, which developed over the past decade, initially driven by in situ reporter imaging technology. Noninvasive in vivo molecular-genetic imaging developed more recently and is based on nuclear (positron emission tomography [PET], gamma camera, autoradiography) imaging as well as magnetic resonance (MR) and in vivo optical imaging. Molecular-genetic imaging has its roots in both molecular biology and cell biology, as well as in new imaging technologies. The focus of this presentation will be nuclear-based molecular-genetic imaging, but it will comment on the value and utility of combining different imaging modalities. Nuclear-based molecular imaging can be viewed in terms of three different imaging strategies: (1) "indirect" reporter gene imaging; (2) "direct" imaging of endogenous molecules; or (3) "surrogate" or "bio-marker" imaging. Examples of each imaging strategy will be presented and discussed. The rapid growth of in vivo molecular imaging is due to the established base of in vivo imaging technologies, the established programs in molecular and cell biology, and the convergence of these disciplines. The development of versatile and sensitive assays that do not require tissue samples will be of considerable value for monitoring molecular-genetic and cellular processes in animal models of human disease, as well as for studies in human subjects in the future. Noninvasive imaging of molecular-genetic and cellular processes will complement established ex vivo molecular-biological assays that require tissue sampling, and will provide a spatial as well as a temporal dimension to our understanding of various diseases and disease processes.