Many viruses, including retroviruses, are characterized by their specific cell tropism. Lymphadenopathy-associated virus (LAV) is a human lymphotropic retrovirus isolated from patients with acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) or related syndromes, that displays selective tropism for a subset of T lymphocytes defined by the expression of a surface glycoprotein of relative molecular mass 62,000 (62K) termed T4 (refs 6-8). This glycoprotein delineates a subset of T lymphocytes with mainly helper/inducer functions, while T lymphocytes of the reciprocal subset express a glycoprotein termed T8, have mainly cytotoxic/suppressor activities, and are unable to replicate LAV. Such a tropism may be controlled at the genomic level by regulatory sequences, as described for the human T-cell leukaemia viruses HTLV-I and -II (refs 2, 3). Alternatively or concomitantly, productive cell infection may be controlled at the membrane level, requiring the interaction of a specific cellular receptor with the virus envelope, as demonstrated recently for Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). Therefore, we have investigated whether the T4 molecule itself is related to the receptor for LAV. We report here that preincubation of T4+ lymphocytes with three individual monoclonal antibodies directed at the T4 glycoprotein blocked cell infection by LAV. This blocking effect was specific, as other monoclonal antibodies--such as antibody to histocompatibility locus antigen (HLA) class II or anti-T-cell natural killer (TNK) target--directed at other surface structures strongly expressed on activated cultured T4+ cells, did not prevent LAV infection. Direct virus neutralization by monoclonal antibodies was also ruled out. These results strongly support the view that a surface molecule directly involved in cellular functions acts as, or is related to, the receptor for a human retrovirus.