Currently, treatment for rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory arthropathies is often ineffective in ameliorating the progression of the disease, particularly the invasive destruction of cartilage and bone by rheumatoid synovium. Multiple aspects of this inflammatory process are mediated by the synovial lining cells (synoviocytes). Genetic modification of these cells in vivo represents a potential method for the treatment of these conditions. In this report, we describe a novel technique for the genetic transduction of synovial lining cells in vivo using recombinant adenoviral vectors and intraarticular injection techniques. Purified high titer suspensions of a recombinant adenoviral vector containing the gene for Escherichia coli beta-galactosidase (AdCMVlacZ) were directly injected into the hind knees of New Zealand white rabbits. Synovial tissues were then examined for transgenic lacZ expression using a combination of in situ staining for beta-galactosidase activity, immunohistochemical staining, and transmission electron microscopy. High efficiency gene transfer and lacZ expression was observed in both type A and type B synoviocytes throughout the articular and periarticular synovium of the rabbit knee, with continued expression of transgenic lacZ detected for > or = 8 wk after infection.