Intracellular transport and processing of the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) envelope precursor polyprotein, gp160, proceeds via the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and Golgi complex. We examined gp160 processing during the production of HIV-1 virions in transfected HeLa cells using wild-type and env mutant proviral molecular clones. Results from pulse-chase analyses indicated that a single amino acid substitution within a highly conserved domain of the env gene impaired gp160 export from the ER, leading to an increase in oligomeric forms of gp160 and a decrease in gp120 production. In contrast, gp160 which contained a mutated cleavage site was able to traverse the ER/Golgi complex, even in the absence of proteolytic processing, and become incorporated into budding virions. These findings indicate that export from the ER is a point in the intracellular trafficking of gp160 that is crucial to the production of the mature envelope components.