Activation of T helper cells specific for viral antigens is critical for antibody production and for generation of cytotoxic cells during the immune response to HIV. Since T-cell activation depends on antigen-presenting cells (APCs), it is important to define the cells that have a role in presentation of HIV antigens in general and of gp120 in particular. Peripheral blood mononu-clear cells (PBMCs), adherent monocytes (AMs), dendritic cells (DCs) and Epstein Barr virus-transformed B-cell lines (LCLs) were tested for the capacity to present gp120 to a specific T-cell clone. DCs proved to be the most effective APC. Primary T-cell lines were generated from uninfected and unprimed individuals by using different APCs in the presence of gp120 or an immunodominant peptide. T-cell lines specific for gp120 were obtained with PBMCs or DCs as APCs, but not with AMs or LCLs. The data showed that (a) DCs are the most effective APCs for presentation of gp120 to specific T cells and (b) DCs are necessary for in vitro induction of primary T-cell lines specific for gp120.