Cartilage function after resurfacing with cell-based transplantation procedures or during the early stages of arthritic disease may be bolstered by the addition of growth factor genes to the transplanted tissue. Insulinlike growth factor-I maintains chondrocyte metabolism in normal cartilage homeostasis and has been shown to improve cartilage healing in vivo. Given the relatively short half-life of insulinlike growth factor-I in biologic systems, however, maintenance of effective concentrations of this peptide has necessitated either very high initial doses or repeated treatment. Delivery of the insulinlike growth factor-I gene, using a deleted adenovirus vector, specifically targeting graftable articular chondrocytes, bone marrow-derived chondroprogenitor cells, or synovial lining cells, may provide more durable insulinlike growth factor-I fluxes to articular tissues. Cultured equine articular chondrocytes, mesenchymal stem cells, synovial explants, and synovial intimal cells were readily transfected with an E1-deleted adenoviral vector containing equine insulinlike growth factor-I coding sequence. Optimal viral concentrations for effective transduction were 100 multiplicities of infection in synoviocytes, 500 multiplicities of infection in chondrocytes, and 1000 multiplicities of infection in mesenchymal stem cells. Production of insulinlike growth factor-I ligand varied from 65 ng/mL to 246 ng/mL in medium from chondrocytes and synovial explants, respectively. For chondrocytes, these concentrations were sufficient to produce significant stimulation of cartilage matrix gene expression and subsequent proteoglycan production. Moreover, cells in infected cultures maintained a chondrocytic phenotype and continued to express elevated insulinlike growth factor-I levels during 28 days of monolayer culture. Minimal synthetic activity, other than insulinlike growth factor-I ligand synthesis, was evident in synovial cultures. These experiments suggest several avenues for insulinlike growth factor-I supplementation of articular cartilage, including preimplantation adenoviral-insulinlike growth factor gene transfer to chondrocytes or chondroprogenitor cells, and direct injection of adenoviral-insulinlike growth factor to transfect the synovial structures in situ.