VPX is a 16 kDa accessory protein expressed in cells infected with HIV-2 and most SIV strains and is packaged into virus particles. In order to define the requirements for incorporation of VPX into virions, VPX and HIV-2 GAG- POL were expressed independently from a vaccinia virus-based transient expression system. Under these conditions, VPX was exported from transfected cells only when coexpressed with the HIV-2 GAG-POL plasmid. A 27 kDa protein coprecipitating with VPX was found to have an identical electrophoretic mobility as the GAG capsid protein, and reacted with an anti-GAG antiserum. Coexpression of VPX and GAG-POL resulted in virus-like particles containing both proteins, as determined by sucrose gradient analyses. Expression of VPX and HIV-2 GAG without POL gave similar results. VPX association with HIV-2 GAG p27 capsid protein was specific, since no association was found with the HIV-1 GAG p25/p24 capsid protein.