The first step in the replicative cycle of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) is binding of the virions to the cellular CD4 receptor. This process may be considered as an important target for chemotherapeutic agents against acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). A method has now been devised whereby virion binding to the cell membrane was visualized by an indirect immunofluorescence assay using human anti-HIV-1 serum, rabbit anti-human-IG-F(ab')2-fluorescein isothiocyanate, and flow cytometry. Heparin, dextran sulfate, and pentosan polysulfate suppressed HIV-1 binding to MT-4 cells at concentrations that protected the cells against HIV-1 cytopathogenicity. Dextran and dermatan sulfate, two compounds that are inactive against HIV-1, had no inhibitory effect on the binding of HIV-1 to the cells. The potent and selective HIV-1 inhibitor azidothymidine (AZT) did not affect virus binding to the cells, whereas suramin partially blocked HIV-1 binding to the cells at concentrations that fully protected MT-4 cells against destruction of HIV-1. Our immunofluorescence assay thus demonstrated that suramin not only acts as an inhibitor of reverse transcriptase but also interferes with virus-cell binding. Also, Evans blue, an anionic dye structurally related to suramin, partially inhibited HIV-1 attachment to the cells. The present method permits a quantitative determination of the inhibitory effect of anti-HIV-1 agents on virion-cell binding.