Fresh and cultured leukemia cells from an adult T-cell leukemia (ATL) patient which possessed gag and env gene defective human T-cell leukemia virus type I (HTLV-I) provirus genome were molecularly analyzed. Cells from both fresh and the established cell line, named KB-1 showed identical surface markers of helper T cells, expressed the interleukin 2 (IL-2) receptor and had an identical defective HTLV-I provirus genome with deletions of the gag and env genes involving pX gene exon 2. The KB-1 cells grew vigorously in vitro, even in the absence of IL-2 and the culture supernatant of KB-1 contained a large amount of IL-2. Neither pX mRNA nor p40(TAX) protein was detected in the KB-1 cells. The collective evidence suggests that the pX gene was not functioning in this particular ATL case. The biological function of the HTLV-I genes, especially the pX gene is discussed in relation to the early and late leukemogenesis of ATL.