Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection of CD4+ lymphocytes and macrophages involves interaction of the surface subunit of the envelope protein (gp120) with coreceptors. Isolates have been found with specific tropism for macrophages and/or T-cell lines, through the utilization of chemokine receptor CCR5 (R5) or CXCR4 (X4). The third hypervariable loop (V3 loop) of gp120 is the major determinant of tropism. Using chimeric envelopes between HXB2 (X4) and ADA (R5), we found that the C-terminal half of the V3 loop was sufficient to confer on HXB2 the ability to infect CCR5- expressing cells. A sequence motif was identified at positions 289 to 292 allowing 30% of wild-type levels of infection, whereas full activity was achieved with the conversion of Lys to Glu at position 287 in addition to the above motif. Moreover, V3 loops from either SF2 (X4R5) or SF162 (R5) also allowed infection of CCR5-expressing cells, supporting the importance of V3 loops in influencing CCR5 utilization. The effects of amino acid changes at position 287 on the level of infection via CCR5 showed that negatively charged residues (Glu and Asp) were optimal for efficient interaction whereas only bulky hydrophobic residues drastically reduced infection. In addition, sequences at the N terminus of the V3 loop independently modulated the level of infection via CCR5. This study also examined the susceptibility of chimeric envelopes to neutralization by anticoreceptor antibodies and suggested the presence of differential interaction between the chimeric envelopes and CCR5. These findings highlight the critical residues in the V3 loop that mediate HIV-1 infection.