Recombinant retroviral vectors have been used to transfer a variety of genetic sequences into hematopoietic stem cells. Although transfer and expression of foreign genetic sequences into reconstituting stem cells is one approach to somatic gene therapy, few studies have shown long lasting phenotypic changes in recipient mice in vivo. In this study, we show successful transfer of a methotrexate-resistant cDNA (DHFRr) into reconstituting hematopoietic stem cells using a retroviral vector, FrDHFRr, in which the DHFR cDNA is expressed off a hybrid Friend/Moloney long term repeat. Both primary and secondary recipients transplanted with bone marrow cells infected with this recombinant retrovirus show improved survival and protection from methotrexate- induced marrow toxicity when compared with control animals. These data suggest that retroviral-mediated gene transfer of DHFRr cDNA leads to a stable change in the phenotype of hematopoietic stem cells and progeny derived from those cells in vivo after bone marrow transplantation. Gene transfer using recombinant retroviral vectors seems to be one rational approach to establishing chemotherapy-resistant bone marrow cells.