Abstract We have examined the long-term functional and structural stability of retroviral vectors in infected murine cells. We have used Moloney murine leukemia virus-based vectors epxressing human HPRT, firefly luciferase ( luc), and Escherichia coli β-galactosidase ( lacZ) as reporter genes, and the human HPRT and the transposon Tn5 neomycin resistance ( neo) gene as selectable markers. All vectors, whether single or double gene, yielded both stable and unstable clones. Stability of the proviruses was dependent on a number of factors, including the nature of the infected cell, the reporter gene, the integration site of the provirus, the relative positions of the component genes in multigene vectors, and the presence or absence of selection pressure. Selection pressure was helpful, but not universally effective, in maintaining provirus structural and functional integrity. Reporter gene expression from an internal promoter was likely to be unstable with or without selection for an upstream, LTR-driven neo gene. In some clones, loss of proviral gene expression was accompanied by deletions, while other inactive clones retained an apparently intact provirus. In the latter clones, treatment with 5-azacytidine failed to reactivate the reporter genes, but superinfection with helper virus resulted in the reappearance of transmissible vector, indicating a reversible epigenetic mechanism for proviral shutdown. The design of effective retroviral vectors and their possible use in vivo will require further characterization of these determinants of provirus stability.