The development of methods for efficient gene transfer to terminally differentiated retinal cells is important to study the function of the retina as well as for gene therapy of retinal diseases. We have developed a lentiviral vector system based on the HIV that can transduce terminally differentiated neurons of the brain in vivo. In this study, we have evaluated the ability of HIV vectors to transfer genes into retinal cells. An HIV vector containing a gene encoding the green fluorescent protein (GFP) was injected into the subretinal space of rat eyes. The GFP gene under the control of the cytomegalovirus promoter was efficiently expressed in both photoreceptor cells and retinal pigment epithelium. However, the use of the rhodopsin promoter resulted in expression predominantly in photoreceptor cells. Most successfully transduced eyes showed that photoreceptor cells in >80% of the area of whole retina expressed the GFP. The GFP expression persisted for at least 12 weeks with no apparent decrease. The efficient gene transfer into photoreceptor cells by HIV vectors will be useful for gene therapy of retinal diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa.