Naturally occurring strains of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) can vary considerably in their in vitro biological properties, and such differences may also be reflected in their in vivo pathogenesis. In an attempt to define genetic determinants of viral pathogenicity, we have molecularly cloned, sequenced, and characterized an attenuated isolate of HIV type 2 (HIV-2/ST) that differs from prototype HIV-2 strains in its inability to fuse with and kill susceptible CD4-bearing target cells. A proviral clone, termed JSP4-27, was identified to be transfection competent and to fully exhibit the noncytopathic and nonfusogenic properties of its parental isolate. Nucleotide sequence analysis of this clone revealed a genomic organization very similar to that of cytopathic HIV-2 strains and an overall nucleotide sequence homology of 88 to 90%. Amino acid sequence comparison confirmed the integrity of all major viral gene products in JSP4-27 but identified two amino acid sequence substitutions in its envelope fusion region. To investigate whether these mutations were responsible for the nonfusogenic phenotype of JSP4-27, we amplified, cloned, and sequenced the envelope fusion regions of four additional HIV-2/ST strains, two of which represented in vitro-generated, fusogenic and cytopathic variants of HIV-2/ST. The analysis showed that all HIV-2/ST strains examined, including the fusogenic variants, contained the same amino acid sequence changes. On the basis of these findings, we conclude that the attenuated phenotype of JSP4-27, and that of its parental virus, is not due to a direct alteration of the envelope fusion domain. Our results also show, for the first time, that individual replication-competent proviral clones can be representative of attenuated strains of HIV.