- Activation of the minute virus of mice (MVM) P4 promoter is a key step in the life cycle of the virus and is completely dependent on host transcription factors. Since transcription-factor composition varies widely in different cell types, there is the possibility that only some cell types in the host organism have the capacity to initiate expression from the P4 promoter and therefore that the promoter may be a factor in determining the tropism of MVM. In this study, the ability of various cell types to activate P4, independent of the other virus–host interactions, was examined in transgenic mouse lines bearing a β-galactosidase reporter sequence driven by the P4 promoter. It was found that lac Z was expressed during embryogenesis and in the adult in a cell-type-specific and differentiation-dependent pattern. The data are consistent with cell-type and stage-specific activation of the P4 promoter having a role in determining the host cell-type range of MVM. The ability of some parvoviruses to replicate in, and kill oncogenically transformed cells, and to destroy induced tumors in laboratory animals is the basis of recent approaches to use MVM-based vectors in cancer gene therapy. Since these vectors rely on the activation of the P4 promoter by the target tissues, understanding the promoter dependence on cell-type and differentiation status is important for their design and potential use.