There is substantial evidence that dendritic cells (DC) residing within epithelial surfaces (e.g., Langerhans cells) are the initial cells infected with HIV after mucosal exposure to virus. To study DC-HIV interactions in detail, we propagated Langerhans cell-like DC from cord blood CD34(+) cells and from adult blood plastic-adherent PBMC in the presence of cytokines (GM-CSF, IL-4, and/or TNF-alpha). DC pulsed overnight with HIVBaL or HIVIIIB were infected productively with both viral subtypes (as assessed by PCR, supernatant p24 protein levels, electron microscopy, and antibody staining). Productive infection could be blocked by anti-CD4 mAbs, RANTES (regulated upon activation, normal T cell expressed and secreted) (for HIVBaL), stromal cell-derived factor-1 (for HIVIIIB), or azidothymidine added during the HIV pulse, as well as by blocking DC proliferation. However, pulsing DC with HIV under these blocking conditions had no effect on the ability of DC to capture virus and transmit infection to cocultured antigen-stimulated CD4(+) T cells. Thus, we show by several criteria that (a) productive infection of DC and (b) the ability of DC to capture virus are mediated through separate pathways. We suggest that strategies designed to block mucosal transmission of HIV should consider interfering with both virus infection and virus capture by DC.