The use of an efficient carrier for nucleic acid-based medicines is considered to be a determinant factor for the successful application of gene therapy. The drawbacks associated with the use of viral vectors, namely those related with safety problems, have prompted investigators to develop alternative methods for gene delivery, cationic lipid-based systems being the most representative. Despite extensive research in the last decade on the use of cationic liposomes as gene transfer vectors and the development of elegant strategies to enhance their biological activity, these systems are still far from being viable alternatives to the use of viral vectors in gene therapy. In this review considerations are made regarding the structure-activity relationships of cationic liposome / DNA complexes and the key formulation parameters influencing the features of lipoplexes are presented and discussed in terms of their effect on biological activity. Particular emphasis is given to the interaction of the lipoplexes with serum components as well as to novel strategies developed to circumvent difficulties that may emerge upon iv administration of the complexes. Finally, since the ability of the lipoplexes to be stored while preserving their transfection activity is a crucial issue for the repeated use of such carriers, approaches reported on the improvement of their physical stability are also reviewed.