The effect of complement on transgene expression was evaluated in vivo and in vitro using mice lacking complement components. Complement component 3 (C3) deficient mice (C3-/-) and appropriate wild-type controls were intravenously injected with a replication incompetent, luciferase-expressing normal Ad5 (Ad5Luc1), or fibritin-fiber Ad5 (Ad5FFLuc1). Repeated, noninvasive bioluminescence imaging was conducted over 35 days. Our data show for the first time that C3 facilitates both short- and long-term hepatic expression of luciferase following systemic delivery. C3-/- mice showed significantly less (P < 0.05) luciferase expression in their liver than treatment-matched wild-type mice when 2.3 × 109 (Ad5Luc1) and 4.0 × 109 (Ad5Luc1 or Ad5FFLuc1) viral particles (v.p.) were infused. The maximal difference in luciferase activity between C3-/- and wild-type mice was 99-fold difference at 3 days for the 2.3 × 109 v.p. dose (Ad5Luc1), 35-fold at 13 days for the 4.0 × 109 v.p. dose (Ad5Luc1), and 22-fold at 13 days for the 4.0 × 109 v.p. dose (Ad5FFLuc1). Preincubation of Ad5Luc1 with wild-type, C1q-/-, or factor B (FB) deficient mouse sera for 5 min significantly (P < 0.05) increased transduction of mouse liver cells, as compared to preincubation with C3-/- sera or PBS. These results suggest the classical or alternate complement pathway enhances Ad5-mediated liver transduction. © 2004 Nature Publishing Group All rights reserved.