Liver transplantation is the only treatment for advanced liver cirrhosis. Therapies halting the progression of the disease are urgently needed. Administration of recombinant insulin-like growth factor-I (rIGF-I) induces hepatoprotective effects in experimental cirrhosis. Therefore, we analyzed the efficacy of a recombinant simian virus 40 vector (rSV40) encoding IGF-I (rSVIGF-I) to prevent cirrhosis progression. First, transgene expression was evaluated in mice injected with rSV40 encoding luciferase, which showed long-term hepatic expression of the transgene. Interestingly, luciferase expression increased significantly in CCl(4)-damaged livers and upon IGF-I administration, thus liver injury and IGF-I expression from rSVIGF-I should favor transgene expression. rSVIGF-I therapeutic efficacy was studied in rats where liver cirrhosis was induced by CCl(4) inhalation during 36 weeks. At the end of the study, the hepatic levels of IGF-I and IGF-binding protein 3 were higher in rSVIGF-I-treated rats than in control cirrhotic animals. Cirrhotic rats treated with rSVIGF-I had reduced serum bilirubin, transaminases and liver fibrosis scores and increased hepatic expression of hepatocyte growth factor and STAT3alpha as compared to cirrhotic animals. Furthermore, cirrhotic animals showed testis atrophy and altered spermatogenesis, whereas testicular size and histology were normal in cirrhotic rats that received rSVIGF-I. Therefore, rSV40-mediated sustained expression of IGF-I in the liver slowed cirrhosis progression.