Eighteen monoclonal antibodies (MAb) to simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) envelope have been characterized. All MAb were shown to bind to viral antigens on the surface of unfixed SIV-infected cells and to precipitate surface glycoproteins of SIVmac251. In Western blot 11 MAb bound to gp160 and gp120, five bound to gp160 and the transmembrane protein gp41 and two MAb did not react with denatured antigen. Preliminary competition assays identified the existence of six competition groups; two groups were within gp41 and four were within gp120. Of the latter four groups, three contained MAb with neutralizing activity. Two of the neutralizing MAb (KK5 and KK9) did not react with denatured antigen in Western blot suggesting that they may recognize conformational epitopes. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent-assay titres of MAb against SIVmac251 ranged from 10(2.4) to 10(5.6) and although similar titres were obtained with some MAb against other SIV and HIV antigens, the presence of isolate specific and shared group epitopes was demonstrated.