Protease inhibitors are widely used in the treatment of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1)-infected individuals and show a drastic effect on the reduction of virus load. We previously reported that doughnut-shaped, protease-defective gp120-containing HIV-1 particles from an L-2 cell clone, carrying a provirus with mutations at the pol (protease), env (gp41) and nef genes, rapidly and more effectively induces virus particle-mediated syncytia formation of uninfected T-cells, than a parental wild-type laboratory strain of HIV-1 (LAI). In this study, we examined the possibility of whether enhanced syncytia formation is mediated by morphologically similar doughnut-shaped particles obtained after treatment of LAI-infected cells with the protease inhibitors L-689, 502, DMP-323, RO-31-8959, and KNI-272. Utilizing such protease inhibitor-induced particles and a clone of MOLT-4 cells, we could not detect any enhancement of syncytia formation, over that seen with wild-type LAI particles. This result should alleviate concerns of patients on highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), that protease inhibitors might accelerate progression of the disease through enhanced production of defective, 'immature'-appearing particles.