The genetic structure of Mason-Pfizer monkey virus (MPMV), a D-type retrovirus, has been determined. In addition to the viral gag, pol, and env genes is an ORF overlapping both gag and pol and that encodes the viral protease. Surprisingly, the MPMV env protein is highly homologous to that of the avian C-type virus, reticuloendotheliosis associated virus REV-A. The env sequence encodes an immunosuppressive peptide, which suggests that MPMV, like REV-A, may transiently induce a T-suppressor cell population. The different phylogenies of the MPMV pol and env genes indicate a recombinatorial origin for the D-type viruses. Sequence comparisons show that SRV-1, an MPMV-like virus etiologically linked to simian AIDS (SAIDS), is in fact a variant of MPMV. While MPMV-like viruses cannot be used as direct models for the AIDS/SAIDS associated with lentiviruses, they provide an important system for studying the molecular basis of immunosuppressive diseases in primates.