Leukocyte adhesion deficiency (LAD) is an inherited disorder of leukocyte function that is caused by defects in the CD18 gene and is associated with diminished cell surface expression of CD11/CD18 proteins. We have developed an in vivo model for gene therapy of LAD. Recombinant retroviruses were used to transduce a functional human CD18 gene into murine bone marrow cells which were transplanted into lethally irradiated syngeneic recipients. A reliable flow cytometric assay for human CD18 in transplant recipients was developed based on: (a) the availability of human specific CD18 monoclonal antibodies and (b) the observation that human CD18 can form chimeric heterodimers with murine CD11a on the cell surface. Human CD18 was detected on leukocytes in a substantial number of transplant recipients for at least 6 mo suggesting that the gene had been transduced into stem cells. Expression was demonstrated in several lineages of a variety of hematopoietic tissues, but was consistently highest and most frequent in granulocytes. Murine granulocytes demonstrated appropriate posttranscriptional regulation of human CD18 in response to activation of protein kinase C. No apparent untoward effects of human CD18 expression were noted in transplant recipients. These studies suggest a specific strategy for LAD gene therapy that may be effective and safe.