Infection of pigtail macaques with SIVsmmPBj14, biological clone 3 (SIV-PBj14-bc13), produces an acute and usually fatal shock-like syndrome 7 to 14 days after infection. We used this simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) model as a rapid and rigorous challenge to evaluate the efficacy of two SIV Env vaccine strategies. Groups of four pigtail macaques were immunized four times over a 25-week span with either a recombinant Semliki Forest virus expressing the SIV-PBj14 Env gp160 (SFV-SIVgp160) or purified recombinant SIV-PBj14 gp120 (rgp120) in SBN-1 adjuvant. Antibody titers to SIV Env developed in all immunized animals (mean peak titers prior to challenge, 1:1,700 for SFV-SIV gp 160 and 1:10,500 for rgp120), but neither neutralizing antibodies nor SIV-specific T-cell proliferative responses were detectable in any of the vaccinees. All macaques were challenged with a 100% infectious, 75% fatal dose of SIV-PBj14-bc13 at week 26. Three of four control animals died of acute SIV-PBj14 syndrome on days 12 and 13. By contrast, all four SFV-SIVgp160-immunized animals and three of the four rgp120-immunized animals were protected from lethal disease. While all virus-challenged animals became infected, symptoms of the SIV-PBj14 syndrome were more severe in controls than in vaccinees. Mean virus titers in plasma at 13 days postchallenge were approximately 10-fold lower in vaccinated than control animals. However, there was no apparent correlation between survival and levels of peripheral blood mononuclear cell-associated culturable virus, provirus load, or any antiviral immunologic parameter examined. The results indicate that while immunization with SFV-SIVgp160 and rgp120 did not protect against virus infection, these Env vaccines did lower the virus load in plasma and protect against the lethal SIV-PBj14 challenge.