A CD4+ human T cell clone (SPB21) or primary blood mononuclear cells were grown in the presence of HeLa cells stably expressing functional human immunodeficiency virus type 1 envelope glycoprotein complexes at their surface. After a short cocultivation, SPB21 cells lost their ability to proliferate in response to T cell receptor (TCR) stimulations and died by apoptosis, whereas interleukin-2 stimulation was still effective. Incubation with soluble monomeric gp120 did not alter TCR responsiveness. A selective decrease in the proportion of CD4+ cells was also observed among primary lymphocytes after cocultivation and OKT3 stimulation. We propose that binding of oligomeric membrane-bound envelope glycoprotein induces a multimerization of CD4 molecules that impairs normal TCR stimulation.