The envelope proteins (env) of simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) and HIV type 1 assemble to form noncovalently associated oligomers in the endoplasmic reticulum. After cleavage in a Golgi compartment, oligomeric env complexes are transported to the surface of infected cells, where incorporation into budding virions can occur. Difficulties in obtaining adequate quantities of virions retaining env, as well as the unstable nature and hydrophobicity of the oligomer, may account for the absence of previous biophysical studies to determine the oligomeric valency of membrane-associated env. The aim of this study was to evaluate the oligomeric state of SIV env before membrane-fusion activation. Virion-associated env, obtained by crosslinking and detergent extraction, and non-crosslinked secreted env ectodomain (recombinant gp140) were purified by lentil-lectin chromatography and gel filtration as single predominant species. Sedimentation equilibrium-derived mass values for both forms of SIV env were close to those predicted for trimeric assemblies. Determination of the mass of individual molecules by scanning transmission electron microscopy confirmed that SIV virion-associated env and gp140 formed largely homogeneous populations of trimers. Furthermore, a triangular or tri-lobed morphology was clearly visualized in a subset of the trimers.