The envelope protein of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is synthesized as a polyprotein (gp160) and cleaved intracellularly to a gp120-gp41 heterodimer. In this study, the tryptic-like endoproteolytic cleavage site was removed by site-directed mutagenesis and replaced with a chymotryptic-like site. The resultant mutant, RIP7/mut10, was found to be indistinguishable from wild-type HIV when analyzed at the level of proviral replication, RNA processing, protein expression, and viral assembly. However, the gp160 polyprotein was not cleaved and the mutated virions were biologically inactive, until and unless they were exposed to limiting concentrations of chymotrypsin. As is the case for other enveloped mammalian viruses, endoproteolytic cleavage of the HIV envelope protein and release of a unique hydrophobic domain appear to be necessary for the full expression of viral infectivity.