Radiolabeled amino acid sequencing was used to characterize gp41, an antigen of HTLV-III/LAV, the virus believed to be the etiological agent of the acquired immune deficiency syndrome. This antigen is the one most commonly detected in immunoblot assays by sera of patients with AIDS or AIDS-related complex (ARC) and other individuals infected with HTLV-III/LAV. A mouse monoclonal antibody that was reactive with gp41 precipitated a 160-kilodalton protein (gp160) in addition to gp41, but did not precipitate a 120-kilodalton protein (gp120) from extracts of metabolically labeled cells producing HTLV-III. Extracts of infected cells that had been labeled with tritiated leucine or isoleucine were immunoprecipitated with the monoclonal antibody. The immunoprecipitates were fractionated by polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and the p41 was eluted from the gel bands and subjected to amino-terminal radiolabeled amino acid sequencing by the semiautomated Edman degradation. Leucine residues occurred in cycles 7, 9, 12, 26, 33, and 34 among 40 cycles and isoleucine occurred in cycle 4 among 24 cycles analyzed. Comparison of the data with the deduced amino acid sequence of the env gene product of HTLV-III precisely placed gp41 in the COOH-terminal region of the env gene product. Gp160 is thus the primary env gene product and it is processed into gp120 and gp41.