Increased proportions of the small lymphoid subset expressing T cell receptor (TCR) gamma delta occur in different infectious diseases, particularly in mycobacterial infections. In this study the two main subsets of TCR gamma delta+ cells in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) of 54 patients with human immunodeficiency virus type 1 infection were analyzed. These subsets were defined by indirect immunofluorescence techniques and FACS analysis using BB3 and A13 monoclonal antibodies, which specifically react with V delta 2- and V delta 1-encoded forms of TCR gamma delta. The proportion of BB3+(V delta 2+) and A13+(V delta 1+) cells was analyzed in purified PBMC populations. Patients were stratified according to Walter Reed (WR) clinical stage. A sharp increase in percentage of A13+(V delta 1+) cells was observed in all stages of the disease. In addition, a strict correlation was found with stage of the disease and percentage of CD8+ PBMC. An inverse correlation was found with the proportion of CD4+ PBMC. An early (WR2) inversion of the V delta 2-to-V delta 1 ratio was consistently detected even before the inversion of the CD4-to-CD8 ratio.