End-stage simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) isolates are suggested to be the most fit of the evolved virulent variants that precipitate the progression to AIDS. To determine if there were common characteristics of end-stage variants which emerge from accelerated cases of AIDS, a molecular clone was derived directly from serum following in vivo selection of a highly virulent SIV isolate obtained by serial end-stage passage in rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta). This dominant variant caused a marked cytopathic effect and replicated to very high levels in activated but not resting peripheral blood lymphocytes. Furthermore, although this clone infected but did not replicate to detectable levels in rhesus monocyte-derived macrophages, these cells were able to transmit infection to autologous T cells upon contact. Interestingly, although at low doses this end-stage variant did not use any of the known coreceptors except CCR5, it was able to infect and replicate in human peripheral blood mononuclear cells homozygous for the Delta 32 deletion of CCR5, suggesting the use of a novel coreceptor. It represents the first pathogenic molecular clone of SIV derived from viral RNA in serum and provides evidence that not only the genetic but also the biological characteristics acquired by highly fit late-stage disease variants may be distinct in different hosts.