Hepatocytes are a key target for treatment of inborn errors of metabolism, dyslipidemia and coagulation disorders. The development of potent expression cassettes is a critical target to improve the therapeutic index of gene transfer vectors. Here we evaluated 22 hepatocyte-specific expression cassettes containing a human apo A-I transgene following hydrodynamic transfer of plasmids or adenoviral transfer with E1E3E4-deleted vectors in C57BL/6 mice. The DC172 promoter consisting of a 890 bp human alpha(1)-antitrypsin promoter and two copies of the 160 bp alpha(1)-microglobulin enhancer results in superior expression levels compared to constructs containing the 1.5 kb human alpha(1)-antitrypsin promoter, the 790 bp synthetic liver-specific promoter or the DC190 promoter containing a 520 bp human albumin promoter and two copies of the 99 bp prothrombin enhancer. The most potent expression cassette consists of the DC172 promoter upstream of the transgene and two copies of the hepatic control region-1. Minicircles containing this expression cassette induce persistent physiological human apo A-I or human factor IX levels after hydrodynamic transfer. In conclusion, in this comparative study of 22 hepatocyte-specific expression cassettes, the DC172 promoter in combination with two copies of the hepatic control region-1 induces the highest expression levels following hydrodynamic and adenoviral transfer.Gene Therapy advance online publication, 21 February 2008; doi:10.1038/sj.gt.3303096.