To increase transgenic production of granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF), we mutated the mRNA's 32-untranslated region, AUUUA instability elements. Expression vectors containing human or murine GM-CSF cDNAs coding for wild-type (GM-AUUUA) or mutant versions with reiterated AUGUA repeats (GM-AUGUA) were transfected into cells in culture or animals using particle-mediated gene-transfer technology. Normal peripheral blood mononuclear cells accumulated 20-fold greater levels of GM-CSF mRNA and secreted comparably greater amounts of cytokine after transfection with hGM-AUGUA expression vectors versus hGM-AUUUA. hGM-AUGUA mRNA was fivefold more stable (t 1/2 = 95 minutes) than hGM-AUUUA mRNA (t 1/2 = 20 minutes), accounting for elevated steady-state levels. Transfection site extracts and serum samples obtained 24 hours after gene transfer of hGM-AUGUA cDNA into mouse skin contained greater than 32 ng/mL and 650 pg/mL of GM-CSF protein, respectively, compared with 0.33 ng/mL and less than 8 pg/mL for hGM-AUUUA cDNA. GM-CSF produced from mGM-AUGUA cDNA transfected into rat abdominal epidermis induced a profound neutrophil infiltrate. These data suggest a novel strategy for enhanced production of biologically active cytokines by normal cells after in vivo gene transfer.