An important goal of gene therapy is to be able to deliver genes, so that they express in a pattern that recapitulates the expression of an endogenous cellular gene. Although tissue-specific promoters confer selectivity, in a vector-based system, their activity may be too weak to mediate detectable levels in gene-expression studies. We have used a two-step transcriptional amplification system to amplify gene expression from lentiviral vectors using the human insulin promoter. In this system, the human insulin promoter drives expression of a potent synthetic transcription activator (the yeast GAL4 DNA-binding domain fused to the activation domain of the Herpes simplex virus-1 VP16 activator), which in turn activates a GAL4-responsive promoter, driving the enhanced green fluorescent protein reporter gene. Vectors carrying the human insulin promoter did not express in non-beta-cell lines, but expressed in murine insulinoma cell lines, indicating that the human insulin promoter was capable of conferring cell specificity of expression. The insulin-amplifiable vector was able to amplify gene expression five to nine times over a standard insulin-promoter vector. In primary human islets, gene expression from the insulin-promoted vectors was coincident with insulin staining. These vectors will be useful in gene-expression studies that require a detectable signal and tissue specificity.