Two functionally different types of human T-cell clones, one with helper function and two with specific activity, were infected with different isolates of HTLV-I and HLTV-II. Both types of human T cells showed alterations in specific function after infection with either of the HTLV subgroups. Before HTLV infection, the T-cell clone with helper function proliferates and provides help to B cells only in the presence of both a specific soluble antigen (keyhole limpet hemocyanin) and histocompatible antigen-presenting cells. After HTLV infection, these cells respond with increased proliferation and indiscriminant stimulation of polyclonal immunoglobulin production by B cells, regardless of the histocompatibility of the antigen-presenting cells or the presence of the soluble antigen. Infection of the normal cytotoxic T-cell clones led to a dimunition or loss of the cytotoxic function. The results of these studies suggest some possible mechanisms for induction of immune deficiency and of polyclonal B-cell activation by viruses of the HTLV family.