We transfected human and rabbit peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) with the ACH molecular clone of human T-cell lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) to study its in vitro and in vivo properties. PBMC transfected with ACH were shown to transfer infection to naive PBMC. ACH transformed rabbit PBMC, as indicated by interleukin-2-independent proliferation of a transfectant culture. This transformant culture was shown by flow cytometric analysis to be a CD4+ CD25+ T-lymphocyte population containing, as determined by Southern blot analysis, at least three integrated HTLV-1 proviral copies. HTLV-1 infection was produced in rabbits inoculated with ACH-transfected, irradiated PBMC. Inoculated rabbits seroconverted to positivity for antibodies against HTLV-1 and had steady or rising HTLV-1 enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay antibody titers. Western blot (immunoblot) analysis revealed sustained seroconversion of rabbits to positivity for antibodies against all major viral antigenic determinants. Infection of rabbits was further demonstrated by antigen capture assay of p24 in PBMC and lymph node cultures and PCR amplification of proviral sequences from PBMC. These data suggest that ACH, like wild-type HTLV-1, infects and transforms primary CD4+ T lymphocytes and is infectious in vivo. This clone will facilitate investigations into the role of viral genes on biological properties of HTLV-1 in vitro and in vivo.