We determined the ability of self-complementary adeno-associated virus (scAAV) vectors to deliver and express the pyruvate dehydrogenase E1alpha subunit gene (PDHA1) in primary cultures of skin fibroblasts from 3 patients with defined mutations in PHDA1 and 3 healthy subjects. Cells were transduced with scAAV vectors containing the cytomegalovirus promoter-driven enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) reporter gene at a vector:cell ratio of 200. Transgene expression was measured 72h later. The transduction efficiency of scAAV2 and scAAV6 vectors was 3- to 5-fold higher than that of the other serotypes, which were subsequently used to transduce fibroblasts with wild-type PDHA1 cDNA under the control of the chicken beta-action (CBA) promoter at a vector:cell ratio of 1000. Total PDH-specific activity and E1alpha protein expression were determined 10 days post-transduction. Both vectors increased E1alpha expression 40-60% in both control and patient cells, and increased PDH activity in two patient cell lines. We also used dichloroacetate (DCA) to maximally activate PDH through dephosphorylation of E1alpha. Exposure for 24h to 5mM DCA increased PDH activity in non-transduced control (mean 37% increase) and PDH deficient (mean 44% increase) cells. Exposure of transduced patient fibroblasts to DCA increased PDH activity up to 90% of the activity measured in untreated control cells. DCA also increased expression of E1alpha protein and, to variable extents, that of other components of the PDH complex in both non-transduced and transduced cells. These data suggest that a combined gene delivery and pharmacological approach may hold promise for the treatment of PDH deficiency.