The nonstructural/regulatory genes of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) and other lentiviruses are believed to play an important role in the replication and pathogenesis of these viruses. In HIV-1 and other lentiviruses, the vif (viral infectivity factor) open reading frame (ORF) (also termed sor or Q in some lentivirus genomes) is located in the central region, overlapping the 3' end of the pol ORF, but in a different reading frame. Among the lentiviruses, only equine infectious anemia virus lacks a vif ORF. The predicted Vif protein sequences from 38 lentiviruses were analyzed for the presence of global and local sequence similarity. The Vif proteins of closely related lentiviruses are highly conserved (HIV-1HXB2:HIV-1mn = 91% identity), while those of more distantly related lentirviruses have diverged significantly (HIV-1HXB2:simian immunodeficiency virusmax = 30% identity). A search for local sequence similarity revealed that a unifying feature of predicted lentivirus Vif proteins is the presence of at least one of two short, highly conserved sequence motifs, SL(I/V)X4YX9Y and SLQXLA. SLQXLA was present in 34 of 38 lentiviruses examined, while the remaining four lentiviruses had one (three viruses) or two (one virus) substitutions in this motif (of five total substitutions, three were conservative changes). The SL(I/V)X4YX9Y motif was found only in primate lentiviruses and in bovine immunodeficiency-like virus. Based on these findings, we suggest that the locus designation vif be used to denote all lentivirus ORFs previously called vif, Q, or sor.