Information on the extent of genetic variability among non-human primate lentiviruses related to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is sorely lacking. Here we describe the isolation of two molecular clones from the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) and their use to derive restriction endonuclease maps of five SIV isolates from rhesus macaques and one from a cynomolgus macaque. Although similar, all six viral isolates are readily distinguishable; the single isolate from a cynomolgus macaque is the most different. The restriction endonuclease map of one macaque isolate (SIVMAC-251) is identical to that published by others for STLV-IIIAGM of African green monkeys and for HTLV-IV of humans. Nucleotide sequences from the envelope region of cloned SIVMAC-251 have more than 99% identify to previously published sequences for STLV-IIIAGM (refs 2, 4) and HTLV-IV (ref. 4). These results and other observations provide strong evidence that isolates previously referred to as STLV-IIIAGM and HTLV-IV by others are not authentic, but were derived from cell cultures infected with SIVMAC-251.