Simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) infection in macaque species is typically associated with the development of a progressive immunodeficiency disease, similar to human AIDS, resulting in death of animals in months to years after infection. In contrast, a variant virus, termed SIVsmmPBj, induces an acute disease in macaques, resulting in death in 5 to 14 days after infection. Previously, we have shown that several viral determinants contribute to the pathogenesis of this disease. The present study was undertaken to evaluate the role of Nef in the pathogenesis of SIVsmmPBj-induced acute disease. A molecular clone of SIVsmmPBj was generated that contains a deletion in the nef coding region (PBj6.6 delta nef). Virus derived from this molecular clone was tested with the parental virus, PBj6.6, in replication studies in pigtail macaque and rhesus macaque peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs). In general, PBj6.6 delta nef displayed markedly reduced replication abilities when compared with PBj6.6; the only exception being in stimulated pigtail macaque PBMCs, where replication kinetics were nearly identical. In addition, PBj6.6 delta nef was unable to induce the proliferation of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) in vitro, a unique characteristic of acutely pathogenic SIVsmmPBj. Inoculation of this virus into pigtail macaques resulted in infection, but did not result in any detectable acute disease. These studies suggest that Nef is an important viral determinant in the pathogenesis of SIVsmmPBj-induced disease, and further suggest that Nef plays a significant role in viral replication in vivo.