An adenovirus type 5 mutant deleted for the preterminal protein (pTP) gene was constructed using cell lines that express pTP. The pTP deletion mutant virus is incapable of replicating in the absence of complementation and does not express detectable levels of viral mRNAs that are expressed only after the onset of replication. Accumulation of early-region mRNAs, including that for E1A, exhibits a lag relative to that observed from the wild-type virus. However, E1A mRNA accumulation attains a steady-state level similar to the level of expression during the early phase of infection with the wild-type virus. In 293-pTP cells (human embryonic kidney cells that express pTP in addition to high levels of adenovirus E1A and E1B proteins), the pTP deletion mutant virus replicates efficiently and yields infectious titers within 5-fold of that of the wild-type virus. The deletion of 1.2 kb of pTP-encoding sequence increases the size of foreign DNA that can be introduced into the virus and, with an absolute block to replication, makes this virus an important tool for gene therapy.