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Oligomerization of the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 envelope (env) glycoproteins is mediated by the ectodomain of the transmembrane glycoprotein gp41. We report that deletion of gp41 residues 550 to 561 resulted in gp41 sedimenting as a monomer in sucrose gradients, while the gp160 precursor sedimented as a mixture of monomers and oligomers. Deletion of the nearby residues 571 to 582 did not affect the oligomeric structure of gp41 or gp160, but deletion of both sequences resulted in monomeric gp41 and predominantly monomeric gp160. Deletion of residues 655 to 665, adjacent to the membrane-spanning sequence, partially dissociated the gp41 oligomer while not affecting the gp160 oligomeric structure. In contrast, deletion of residues 510 to 518 from the fusogenic hydrophobic N terminus of gp41 did not affect the env glycoprotein oligomeric structure. Even though the mutant gp160 and gp120 molecules were competent to bind CD4, the mutations impaired fusion function, gp41-gp120 association, and gp160 processing. Furthermore, deletion of residues 550 to 561 or 550 to 561 plus 571 to 582 modified the antigenic properties of the proximal residues 586 to 588 and the distal residues 634 to 664. Our results indicate that residues 550 to 561 are essential for maintaining the gp41 oligomeric structure but that this sequence and additional sequences contribute to the maintenance of gp160 oligomers. Residues 550 to 561 map to the N terminus of a putative amphipathic alpha-helix (residues 550 to 582), whereas residues 571 to 582 map to the C terminus of this sequence.