The CD4 glycoprotein is the major cellular receptor for HIV. CD4 surface expression of monocytes decreases with time in culture while their susceptibility to HIV-1 increases. Our aim was to investigate whether this phenomenon occurs in macrophages that have differentiated in vivo by investigating CD4 expression and HIV-1 infection of human alveolar macrophages (AMs). Using flow cytometry to detect CD4 expression by Leu-3a labeled indirectly with fluorescein isothiocyanate or allophycocyanin, we found that CD4 was expressed at low but detectable levels, despite the high background autofluorescence well described in AMs. This finding was supported by the detection of CD4 mRNA in AMs using RT-PCR. T cell contamination of mRNA extracts of AMs was excluded by amplifying in parallel with primers to the constant region of the T cell receptor. Despite this low level of surface CD4, recombinant soluble CD4 and anti-CD4 antibody completely inhibited HIV-1 infection of AMs. We conclude that CD4, although expressed at low levels on the surface of AMs, appears to be critical to HIV-1 infection of these cells.