In this study, progeny viruses of four HIV-1 molecular clones were tested for sensitivity to neutralization following prolonged passage in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) and MT-2, H9, and CEM T-lymphoid cell lines. Two of the viruses were able to establish persistent infection with no cytopathic effect in H9 and CEM cells. Such adaptation conferred increased sensitivity to neutralization by a panel of human sera obtained from HIV-1-infected asymptomatic individuals, by soluble CD4 and by monoclonal antibodies directed to a linear epitope in the V3 region (268-D) and a conformational epitope in the CD4 binding site of the envelope gp 120 (1.5e). Increased sensitivity to neutralization was paralleled by increased binding of these mAbs to native envelope glycoproteins and by increased binding capacity to CD4 expressed on the cell surface. Our results show that virus-host cell interactions are important in influencing sensitivity to neutralization of HIV-1. In primary PBMC or in cytopathic interactions in cell lines, like in MT-2 cells, envelope epitopes important for neutralization remain masked. In contrast, noncytopathic but productive virus-host cell interactions may lead to an increased exposure of neutralizing epitopes and more efficient binding capacity to CD4 resulting in an increased sensitivity to neutralization.