The E. coli PNP suicide gene sensitizes solid tumors to nucleoside prodrugs, such as 6-methylpurine-2′-deoxyriboside (MeP-dR). In this study using lentiviral, MuLv, and HSV-based gene transfer, we quantified thresholds for inhibition of tumor growth and bystander killing by E. coli PNP and tested the role of intestinal flora in this process. Regressions of human glioma tumors following retroviral transduction exhibited dose dependence on both the level of PNP expression and the dose of MeP-dR administered, including strong tumor inhibition when 90-99% bystander cells comprised the tumor mass. A replication competent, non-neurovirulent herpes simplex virus (HSV) deficient in both copies of the gamma-1 34.5 gene was next engineered to express E. coli PNP under the egr-1 promoter (HSV-PNP). HSV-PNP injected intratumorally (17 million pfu/0.05 ml) in nude mice bearing 300 mg human glioma flank tumors produced a delay in tumor growth (∼24 days delay to one doubling). MeP-dR treatment after antibiotic therapy (to eliminate enteric flora encoding PNP enzymes) resulted in antitumor enhancement, with arrest of tumor growth (delay to doubling >50 days). Bystander killing of the magnitude described here has been difficult to accomplish with other suicide genes, such as HSV-tk or cytosine deaminase. The results establish a model for applying E. coli PNP to HSV treatment of glioma. © Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.