Stromal support is required during retroviral-mediated transduction of human bone marrow-derived CD34+ cells to maintain the clonogenicity of the primitive progenitors. We hypothesized that the cytokine FLT3 ligand (FL) might be able to replace the maintenance role provided by the stroma. CD34+ progenitors from human bone marrow were transduced by the retroviral vector LN with the cytokines interleukin-3 (IL-3), IL-6, and stem cell factor (SCF) present in all cultures. Transductions were performed with or without stromal support and with or without the inclusion of 100 U/mL FL. No significant increase in gene transfer into colony-forming cells was obtained by the addition of FL to the cultures. Transduction and survival of more primitive human hematopoietic cells was determined by growth in immune-deficient mice for 7 to 8 months. Human myeloid cells, T lymphocytes, and colony-forming progenitors were recovered from the marrow of mice that had received human cells transduced on stroma or in suspension culture with IL-3, IL-6, SCF, and FL, but not with IL-3, IL-6, and SCF alone. LN provirus was detected by polymerase chain reaction in the marrow recovered from 9 of 10 mice transplanted with human CD34+ cells transduced with stromal support, 5 of 11 mice that received human cells transduced in suspension culture with FL, but none of the 10 mice that received human cells transduced in suspension culture without FL We conclude that FLT3 ligand, in conjunction with IL-3, IL-6, and SCF, preserves the generative capacity of primitive human hematopoietic cells during in vitro transductions in suspension culture.