Gene expression from HIV-based gene therapy vectors or live-attenuated HIV-1 vaccines requires RNA transcription supported by the HIV-1 promoter, the long terminal repeat (LTR). Delivery of live-attenuated HIV-1 vaccines as plasmid DNA would overcome problems associated with production of attenuated HIV-1 strains. We investigated the expression of reporter plasmids and proviral HIV-1 constructs driven by either the HIV-1 LTR or LTRs with deletions in the U3 enhancer regions. LTR-driven plasmids were inoculated by gene gun into both human epidermis ex vivo and macaques in vivo. The HIV-1 LTR drove reporter gene expression in human and macaque skin, although with 15- to 20-fold less efficiency compared to the immediate-early cytomegalovirus promoter. A deleted LTR derived from a naturally attenuated HIV-1 strain infecting a member of the well-characterized Sydney Blood Bank Cohort of long-term nonprogressors was 5-fold less efficient in expression of the reporter gene compared to wild-type LTR. Delivery of proviral wild-type HIV-1 DNA constructs to human skin resulted in recovery of HIV-1 from cells emigrating from the epidermis, providing an ex vivo model of the infectivity of proviral HIV-1 DNA. However, delivery of proviral HIV-1 DNA containing deletions in either the LTR, Nef, or the secondary viral transcription activator,Vpr, significantly reduced HIV-1 replication in this model. The early coexpression of Tat from a second plasmid did not restore replication. Thus, although attenuated lentiviral vaccines might be deliverable as proviral DNA constructs in primate subjects, significant improvements are needed to enhance the efficiency of this method.