Conditioned media from human immunodeficiency virus type I (HIV-1) infected cells were tested for cytotoxic cell-derived factors. The assay used a murine fibroblast cell line which is sensitive to the effects of tumor necrosis factors, but nonpermissive for HIV-1 replication. Cytotoxic activity was detected in cultures of peripheral blood mononuclear cells infected with HIV-1. However, no differences in activity were found in conditioned media from infected lymphoid or monocytoid cell lines compared to their uninfected counterparts. These data suggest that cytotoxic activities of this type are not mediators of cell killing resulting from HIV-1 infection. Thus, this cytotoxic activity is a direct or indirect result of virus replication or cytopathicity. One should consider a role for this cytotoxic factor, secreted by HIV-1 infected mononuclear cells, in various aspects of infection in vivo, such as AIDS encephalopathy or the systemic manifestations accompanying ARC.