We investigated the safety and immunogenicity of a candidate HIV-1 vaccine, Env 2-3 (Chiron Biocine Co.), in combination with an adjuvant emulsion, MF59, with or without an additional immune modulator, MTP-PE 78 healthy HIV-1-seronegative adults. Sixteen subjects participated in a dose escalation study of MTP-PE in MF59 without Env 2-3, given at 0 and 1 months; 48 subjects participated in a study of a fixed dose of 30 micrograms of Env 2-3 in MF59 with increasing doses of MTP-PE (0, 5, 10, 25, 50, and 100 micrograms), and 14 subjects participated in a study of 100 micrograms of Env 2-3 in MF59 without MTP-PE. Subjects were assigned to study groups under a randomized, double-blind allocation. Subjects received immunization at 0, 1, and 6 months, and had the option of receiving a fourth dose at 12-18 months. Env 2-3 in MTP-PE/MF59 was associated with significant reactogenicity, in that severe, although self-limited systemic and/or local reactions occurred in 15 of 30 vaccinees. In contrast, Env 2-3 in MF59 without MTP-PE was relatively well tolerated, and severe local and/or systemic reactions occurred in only 2 of 18 subjects. Env 2-3 stimulated serum antibodies to HIV-1 envelope protein (gp120) as detected by Western blot in 39 of 43 subjects and to HIV-1 virus lysate by EIA in 28 of 43 subjects after three injections. The majority of subjects also developed EIA antibodies to recombinant gp120 (SF-2), gp120 (LAI), and V3 peptide (SF-2). Neutralizing antibodies to the homologous SF-2 strain developed in 30 of 43 and 27 of 34 subjects, and fusion inhibition antibodies in 25 of 43 and 15 of 36 subjects after three and four injections, respectively. Lymphoproliferative responses to the immunogen, Env 2-3 were observed in over 80% of the vaccinees examined, and CD4+ cytotoxic T cell activity directed against HIV-1 was noted transiently in 2 of 20 vaccinees. Addition of MTP-PE to Env 2-3 or increasing the dose of Env 2-3 from 30 to 100 micrograms did not augment immunogenicity. Env 2-3 in MF59 was well tolerated and immunogenic in HIV-1-seronegative individuals. The addition of MTP-PE significantly increased reactogenicity, but had little, if any, effect on immunogenicity.