The ability of human immunodeficiency virus strain MN (HIV(MN)), a T-cell line-adapted strain of HIV, and X4 and R5 primary isolates to bind to various cell types was investigated. In general, HIV(MN) bound to cells at higher levels than did the primary isolates. Virus bound to both CD4-positive (CD4(+)) and CD4-negative (CD4(-)) cells, including neutrophils, Raji cells, tonsil mononuclear cells, erythrocytes, platelets, and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC), although virus bound at significantly higher levels to PBMC. However, there was no difference in the amount of HIV that bound to CD4-enriched or CD4-depleted PBMC. Virus bound to CD4(-) cells was up to 17 times more infectious for T cells in cocultures than was the same amount of cell-free virus. Virus bound to nucleated cells was significantly more infectious than virus bound to erythrocytes or platelets. The enhanced infection of T cells by virus bound to CD4(-) cells was not due to stimulatory signals provided by CD4(-) cells or infection of CD4(-) cells. However, anti-CD18 antibody substantially reduced the enhanced virus replication in T cells, suggesting that virus that bound to the surface of CD4(-) cells is efficiently passed to CD4(+) T cells during cell-cell adhesion. These studies show that HIV binds at relatively high levels to CD4(-) cells and, once bound, is highly infectious for T cells. This suggests that virus binding to the surface of CD4(-) cells is an important route for infection of T cells in vivo.