In aiming to develop a gene therapy approach for hemophilia B, we expressed and characterized human factor IX in rat capillary endothelial cells (CECs). Moloney murine leukemia virus-derived retrovirus vectors that contain human factor IX cDNA linked to heterologous promoters and the neomycin-resistant gene were constructed and employed to prepare recombinant retroviruses. Rat CECs and NIH 3T3 cells infected with these viruses were selected with the neomycin analogue, G418 sulfate, and tested for expression of factor IX. A construct with the factor IX cDNA under direct control by long terminal repeat gave the highest level of expression (0.84 and 3.6 micrograms per 10(6) cells per day for CECs and NIH 3T3 cells, respectively) as quantitated by immunoassays as well as clotting activity assays. A single RNA transcript of 4.4 kilobases predicted by the construct and a recombinant factor IX of 68 kilodaltons identical to purified plasma factor IX were found. The recombinant human factor IX produced showed full clotting activity, demonstrating that CECs have an efficient mechanism for posttranslational modifications, including gamma-carboxylation, essential for its biological activity. These results, in addition to other properties of the endothelium, including large number of cells, accessibility, and direct contact with the circulating blood, suggest that CECs can serve as an efficient drug delivery vehicle producing factor IX in a somatic gene therapy for hemophilia B.