With rare exceptions, all simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) strains can use CCR5 as a coreceptor along with CD4 for viral infection. In addition, many SIV strains are capable of using CCR5 as a primary receptor to infect CD4-negative cells such as rhesus brain capillary endothelial cells. By using coupled fluorescence-activated cell sorter (FACS) and infection assays, we found that even very low levels of CCR5 expression could support CD4-independent virus infection. CD4-independent viruses represent valuable tools for finely dissecting interactions between Env and CCR5 which may otherwise be masked due to the stabilization of these contacts by Env-CD4 binding. Based on the ability of SIV Env to bind to and mediate infection of cells expressing CCR5 chimeras and mutants, we identified the N terminus of CCR5 as a critical domain for direct Env binding and for supporting CD4-independent virus infection. However, the activity of N-terminal domain CCR5 mutants could be rescued by the presence of CD4, indicating that other regions of CCR5 are important for post-binding events that lead to viral entry. Rhesus CCR5 supported CD4-independent infection and direct Env binding more efficiently than did human CCR5 due to a single amino acid difference in the N terminus. Interestingly, uncleaved, oligomeric SIV Env protein bound to both CD4 and CCR5 less efficiently than did monomeric gp120. Finally, several mutations present in chronically infected monkey populations are shown to decrease the ability of CCR5 to serve as a primary viral receptor for the SIV isolates examined.