A series of 22 chimeric envelope (env) genes were generated between the ecotropic Moloney murine leukemia virus and the amphotropic 4070A isolate. The chimeric envelopes were expressed within the complete, replication-competent provirus and tested for virus viability by transient expression assays. Eleven of the 22 viruses were viable. Five of these chimeric viruses showed an ecotropic host range, and six exhibited an amphotropic host range and viral interference. The host range determinants map to the first half of the surface (SU) protein. The N-terminal 72 amino acids of 4070A (42 of processed SU) are not required for amphotropic receptor usage. Ecotropic and amphotropic viruses differ in their ability to form large, multinucleated syncytia when cocultured with the rat XC cell line. Ecotropic murine leukemia virus forms large syncytia with XC cells, whereas no syncytia are reported for amphotropic virus. All chimeras which contained the N-terminal half of the ecotropic SU protein, encoding the receptor binding domain, formed the large multinucleated syncytia with XC cells.