Several growth factors are candidates for the therapy of motor neurone diseases. However, there is no efficient, safe, and practicable administration route which hampers the clinical use of these potentially therapeutic agents. We show that specific and high yield gene transfer into motor neurones can be obtained by peripheral intramuscular injections of recombinant adenoviruses. These vectors are retrogradely transported from muscular motor units to motor neurone cell bodies. Gene transfer can thus be specifically targeted to particular regions of the spinal cord by appropriate choice of the injected muscle. The efficiency of gene transfer is high, with 58-100% of the motor neurones afferent to the injected muscle expressing the transgene. This new therapeutic protocol allows specific targeting of motor neurones without lesioning the spinal cord, and should avoid undesirable side effects associated with systemic administration of therapeutic factors.