Bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) adenoviral vectors for the induction of osteogenesis are being developed for the treatment of bone pathology. However, it is still unknown which BMP adenoviral vector has the highest potential to stimulate bone formation in vivo. In this study, the osteogenic activities of recombinant human BMP-2, BMP-4, BMP-6, BMP-7, and BMP-9 adenoviruses were compared in vitro, in athymic nude rats, and in Sprague-Dawley rats. In vitro osteogenic activity was assessed by measuring the alkaline phosphatase activity in C2C12 cells transduced by the various BMP vectors. The alkaline phosphatase activity induced by 2 x 10(5) PFU/well of BMP viral vector was 4890 x 10(-12) U/well for ADCMVBMP-9, 302 x 10(-12) U/well for ADCMVBMP-4, 220 x 10(-12) U/well for ADCMVBMP-6, 45 x 10(-12) U/well for ADCMVBMP-2, and 0.43 x 10(-12) U/well for ADCMVBMP-7. The average volume of new bone induced by 10(7) PFU of BMP vector in athymic nude rats was 0.37+/-0.03 cm(3) for ADCMVBMP-2, 0.89+/-0.07 cm(3) for ADCMVBMP-4, 1.02+/-0.07 cm(3) for ADCMVBMP-6, 0.24+/-0.05 cm(3) for ADCMVBMP-7, and 0.63+/-0.07 cm(3) for ADCMVBMP-9. In immunocompetent Sprague-Dawley rats, no bone formation was demonstrated in the ADCMVBMP-2, ADCMVBMP-4, and ADCMVBMP-7 groups. ADCMVBMP-6 at a viral dose of 10(8) PFU induced 0.10+/-0.03 cm(3) of new bone, whereas ADCMVBMP-9 at a lower viral dose of 10(7) PFU induced more bone, with an average volume of 0.29+/-0.01 cm(3).