Derivatives of the CEM T and WIL-2 B cell lines showed striking diversity in their responses to the HTLV-IIIB strain of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Several stable phenotypic patterns could be defined, based on whether cells were permissive (P+, P-) for virus production, were sensitive or insensitive to cytopathic effects after infection by free virus (C+, C-), and whether they underwent fusion on contact with virus-infected cells (F+, F-). Although expression of CD4 was essential for infection by HTLV-IIIB, very low levels were sufficient for productive infection of WIL-2 derivatives. Conversely, some CEM T cell lines that expressed ample CD4, and which were able to bind virus gp120 and undergo fusion, did not support productive infection by free virus. One nonpermissive, CD4+ derivative of CEM could bind gp120 but failed to undergo fusion, suggesting an alteration in some membrane protein other than CD4 that is essential for virus entry and HIV-induced cell fusion. The AA2 derivative of the WIL-2 cell line is also described, which is remarkably permissive for HIV replication and exquisitely sensitive to virus cytopathic effect. The panel of related cell lines with different host-virus phenotypes could be useful for more precisely defining steps in the infectious cycle of HIV, and for identifying host cell genes and gene products that determine the outcome of HIV infection.

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