We tested the susceptibility of human purified, normal B lymphocytes to human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection, in the presence or absence of complement-sufficient serum and of virus-specific antibodies. Virus replication was detected when cells were infected in the presence of both complement and anti-HIV antibodies (C'-ADE conditions), by day 2 postinfection. Similar results were obtained when B lymphocytes were purified either from peripheral blood (three healthy donors) or from tonsils (four individuals with chronic tonsillitis). HIV infection was shown by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) detection of proviral sequences (gag and pol genes), by p24 antigen synthesis, and by cocultivation assay with MT2 cells. The higher p24 production was obtained when B cells were preactivated for 2 days by phorbol 12- myristate 13-acetate (PMA) before infection and then cultured in the presence of low-molecular weight B-cell growth factor (LMW-BCGF). Expression of virus envelope glycoprotein (gp) 120 could also be detected on a subpopulation of B cells (CD19+, CD22+) by flow cytometry. Blocking experiments with monoclonal antibodies (MoAbs) against CD4, CD21 (complement receptor 2 [CR2]), CD35 (CR1), CD19, and CD5 surface molecules indicated that infection of B cells involves CD4, CD21, and CD35 antigens. Indeed, blocking of CD4 receptor inhibited 10% of p24 production, and blocking of both CD21 and CD35 led to extinction of p24 signal. CR-dependent pathway is thus a major route for C'-ADE of HIV infection in normal B cells. Our results emphasize the importance of studying interactions between HIV and the complement system for better understanding infection mechanisms and the major dysfunctions of B cells in HIV-infected individuals.