The human colonic adenocarcinoma cell line HT29 can be infected with various isolates of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) and type 2 (HIV-2). In some cases, the virus was able to perform its complete cycle of replication as demonstrated by the persistent production of mature viral particles in the cell-free culture supernatant. We have cultured HT29 cells chronically infected with the replicative strain HIV1-NDK in a chemically defined serum-free medium. Under these conditions, the cells were able to maintain a high level of viral replication, as demonstrated by reverse transcriptase activities and in situ hybridization studies. By indirect immunofluorescence labeling and electron microscopy, we observed that serum starvation was associated with the differentiation of HIV-1-infected HT29 cells into mucous-secreting cells resembling epithelial goblet cells of the colonic mucosa. These mucous-secreting cells, which accounted for 50% of the overall population, produced mature particles of HIV through their apical membrane in the vicinity of mucous granules. These data suggest that HIV-infected goblet cells in the colonic mucosa may produce the virus in the colorectal lumen; this could explain the route of transmission of HIV in the case of anal intercourse.