Drug-inducible systems allowing the control of gene expression in mammalian cells are invaluable tools for genetic research, and could also fulfill essential roles in gene- and cell-based therapy. Currently available systems, however, often have limited in vivo functionality because of leakiness, insufficient levels of induction, lack of tissue specificity or prohibitively complicated designs. Here we describe a lentiviral vector-based, conditional gene expression system for drug-controllable expression of polymerase (Pol) II promoter-driven transgenes or Pol III promoter-controlled sequences encoding small inhibitory hairpin RNAs (shRNAs). This system has great robustness and versatility, governing tightly controlled gene expression in cell lines, in embryonic or hematopoietic stem cells, in human tumors xenotransplanted into nude mice, in the brain of rats injected intraparenchymally with the vector, and in transgenic mice generated by infection of fertilized oocytes. These results open up promising perspectives for basic or translational research and for the development of gene-based therapeutics.