Episomally maintained self-replicating systems present attractive alternative vehicles for gene therapy applications. Recent insights into the ability of chromosomal scaffold/matrix attachment regions (S/MARs) to mediate episomal maintenance of genetic elements allowed the development of a small circular episomal vector that functions independently of virally encoded proteins. In this study, we investigated the potential of this vector, pEPI-eGFP, to mediate gene transfer in hematopoietic progenitor cell lines and primary human cells. pEPI-eGFP was episomally maintained and conferred sustained eGFP expression even in nonselective conditions in the human cell line, K562, as well as in primary human fibroblast-like cells. In contrast, in the murine erythroleukemia cell line, MEL, transgene expression was silenced through histone deacetylation, despite the vector's episomal persistence. Hematopoietic semisolid cell colonies derived from transfected human cord blood CD34(+) cells expressed eGFP, albeit at low levels. After 4 weeks, the vector is retained in approximately 1% of progeny cells. Our results provide the first evidence that S/MAR-based plasmids can function as stable episomes in primary human cells, supporting long-term transgene expression. However, they do not display universal behavior in all cell types.