Retroviral envelope glycoproteins interact with cell receptors and are targets for antiviral immune responses in infected hosts. Macaque simian immunodeficiency virus (SIVmac) is a T-lymphocytopathic lentivirus which causes an AIDS-like disease in rhesus macaques. The envelope gene of SIVmac encodes a precursor glycoprotein (gp160) which is cleaved into an external domain (gp130) and a transmembrane domain (gp32). To investigate the functional and immunological properties of the SIV external envelope glycoprotein, we have used genetically engineered mammalian cells to produce recombinant gp130 (rgp130). The rgp130 has the appropriate molecular weight, is glycosylated, and has native conformation as determined by binding to the cell receptor for SIV, the CD4 antigen. Rhesus macaques immunized with purified rgp130 formulated in muramyl dipeptide adjuvant generated high titers of antienvelope antibodies. Antibodies from these macaques were tested for in vitro virus neutralization; very low or undetectable levels of neutralization were observed. In contrast, neutralizing antibodies were readily detected in sera from goats immunized with rgp130. With respect to cell-mediated immunity, proliferative responses to rgp130 were demonstrated in peripheral blood monocyte cells (PBMC) from macaques immunized with the recombinant glycoprotein as well as in PBMC from SIV-infected animals. These results show that rgp130 is functional and immunogenic; the potential of rgp130 for protective immunization remains to be determined.