The efficient introduction of genetic material into quiescent renal cells is potentially important in the study of renal physiopathology and for gene therapy of kidney related disorders. A replication-deficient adenoviral vector that contained a reporter gene encoding the nuclear beta-galactosidase was either selectively perfused into the renal artery or infused through a retrograde catheter into the pyelic cavity of the left kidney of adult rats. Highly efficient gene transfer was achieved by either route of administration, and nuclear beta-galactosidase activity was detected for two to four weeks following a progressive decline of expression. Genetically-modified cells were identified as proximal tubular cells when the adenoviral vector was selectively perfused via the renal artery, while tubular cells from the papilla and medulla were selectively transduced by retrograde infusion of the viral vector. No obvious cytopathic effect was observed. We conclude that: (i) efficient gene transfer in renal tubular cells can be achieved by adenoviral vectors; (ii) the targeted cell population can be chosen through the route of administration.