Phase I studies of volunteers not infected with human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) have shown that immunization with envelope subunit vaccine products elicits antibodies that neutralize laboratory-adapted (prototype) HIV-1 strains in vitro. Prototype strains are adapted to grow in continuous (neoplastic) cell lines and are more susceptible to neutralization than are primary isolates cultured in human peripheral blood mononuclear cells. In this study, 50 sera from nine phase I vaccine trials and 16 from HIV-1-infected persons were evaluated for neutralizing antibody activity against 3 laboratory-adapted and 5 primary HIV-1 isolates. Of 50 sera, 49 neutralized at least 1 of the prototype strains; however, none displayed neutralizing activity against primary isolates of HIV-1. Serum from most HIV-1-infected persons neutralized both laboratory-adapted and primary HIV-1 isolates. These data demonstrate a qualitative, or large quantitative, difference in the neutralizing antibody response induced by envelope subunit vaccination and natural HIV-1 infection.