Recombinant adeno-associated virus 2 (AAV) virions were constructed containing a gene for resistance to neomycin (neoR), under the control of either the herpesvirus thymidine kinase (TK) gene promoter (vTK-Neo), or the human parvovirus B19 p6 promoter (vB19-Neo), as well as those containing an upstream erythroid cell-specific enhancer (HS-2) from the locus control region of the human beta-globin gene cluster (vHS2-TK-Neo; vHS2-B19-Neo). These recombinant virions were used to infect either low density or highly enriched populations of CD34+ cells isolated from human umbilical cord blood. In clonogenic assays initiated with cells infected with the different recombinant AAV-Neo virions, equivalent high frequency transduction of the neoR gene into slow-cycling multipotential, erythroid, and granulocyte/macrophage (GM) progenitor cells, including those with high proliferative potential, was obtained without prestimulation with growth factors, indicating that these immature and mature hematopoietic progenitor cells were susceptible to infection by the recombinant AAV virions. Successful transduction did not require and was not enhanced by prestimulation of these cell populations with cytokines. The functional activity of the transduced neo gene was evident by the development of resistance to the drug G418, a neomycin analogue. Individual high and low proliferative colony-forming unit (CFU)-GM, burst-forming unit-erythroid, and CFU-granulocyte erythroid macrophage megakaryocyte colonies from mock-infected, or the recombinant virus-infected cultures were subjected to polymerase chain reaction analysis using a neo-specific synthetic oligonucleotide primer pair. A 276-bp DNA fragment that hybridized with a neo-specific DNA probe on Southern blots was only detected in those colonies cloned from the recombinant virus-infected cells, indicating stable integration of the transduced neo gene. These studies suggest that parvovirus-based vectors may prove to be a useful alternative to the more commonly used retroviral vectors for high efficiency gene transfer into slow or noncycling primitive hematopoietic progenitor cells, without the need for growth factor stimulation, which could potentially lead to differentiation of these cells before transplantation.