CD4(+) Th cells are believed to be essential for the induction of humoral and cellular immune responses. In this study we tested the effect and possible mechanisms of the major antigenic component in influenza, hemagglutinin (HA), in helping HIV Env to induce immune responses in CD4(+) T cell knockout (CD4 KO) mice. Simian HIV virus-like particles (SHIV VLPs) or phenotypically mixed chimeric influenza HA/SHIV VLPs were used as immunogens to immunize CD4 KO mice either i.p. or intranasally (i.n.). We found that chimeric HA/SHIV VLPs significantly induced a greater IgG Ab response in both i.p. and i.n. immunized mice and a greater IgA Ab response in mucosal washes in i.n. immunized mice compared with SHIV VLPs. Importantly, chimeric HA/SHIV VLPs induced approximately 3-fold higher neutralizing Ab titers against HIV 89.6 than SHIV VLPs in the absence of CD4(+) T cell help. There was also approximately 40% more specific lysis of the HIV Env-expressing target cells in chimeric HA/SHIV VLP-immunized than in SHIV VLP-immunized CD4 KO mouse splenocytes. Moreover, we have found that chimeric HA/SHIV VLPs could efficiently bind and activate dendritic cells and stimulate the activated dendritic cells to secret TNF-alpha and IFN-gamma. Therefore, chimeric HA/SHIV VLPs could efficiently prime and activate APCs, which could, in turn, induce immune responses in a CD4(+) T cell-independent manner. This study suggests a novel adjuvant role of influenza HA as well as a new strategy to develop more effective therapeutic vaccines for AIDS patients with low CD4(+) T cell counts.