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The ability of HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein gp 120 to induce transmembrane signaling processes in human T cells and tumor T-cell lines was investigated. Differently glycosylated gp120 preparations were characterized with respect to their purity, the fraction of native gp120, and the affinity of the gp120-CD4 interaction. These data were used to establish experimental conditions that allow a substantial fraction of the CD4 receptor to be complexed with gp120 in the course of the experiments. The results are in contrast to several previous studies since no effect of gp120 on the intracellular Ca2+ concentration, the metabolism of inositol phosphates and arachidonic acid, protein kinase C translocation, and tyrosine phosphorylation was found. Cross-linking of the gp120:CD4 complex by anti-gp120 antibodies did not elicit additional effects.