Studies are presented here which demonstrate that antibodies reacting with human interleukin-2 (IL-2) are present in the sera of patients infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). It is likely that these antibodies are present due to a homology between the HIV envelope protein and IL-2. The homologues are six amino acids in length corresponding to the carboxy terminus of gp41, Leu-Glu-Arg-Ile-Leu-Leu (LERILL), and residues 14-19 of secreted IL-2, Leu-Glu-His-Leu-Leu-Leu (LEHLLL). Thus, we questioned whether antibodies made against this HIV envelope peptide would cross-react with IL-2. Not only do a high percentage of the HIV-infected individuals tested here have antibodies against LERILL, but these antibodies cross-react with the IL-2 sequence, LEHLLL. Additional antigenic processing of IL-2 is suggested by the finding that epitopes other than this sixmer are also recognized by antibodies in patients' sera. Thus, these studies suggest a mechanism by which infection with HIV can induce a potentially suppressive autoimmune response. Specifically, antibodies against an HIV envelope peptide cross-react with an epitope in IL-2.