Simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) induces an immunodeficiency syndrome similar to human AIDS. Although the disease course of SIV-induced immunodeficiency is generally measured in months to years, a disease syndrome that results in death in 5 to 14 days has been described in pig-tailed macaques infected with the SIVsmmPBj (PBj) strain. The purpose of this study was to derive an acutely lethal PBj molecular clone in order to study viral genes involved in pathogenesis. Six infectious molecular clones were generated; acutely fatal disease was induced by experimental inoculation of pig-tailed macaques with virus stocks derived from either of two clones, PBj6.6 or PBj14.6. Molecular chimeras were constructed by exchange of regions of the genome of PBj6.6 and a nonlethal, related clone, SIVsmH4. Only a chimera expressing the PBj genome under the control of a SIVsmH4 long terminal repeat induced death soon after inoculation. These studies suggest that multiple viral genes of PBj are critical for development of acute disease. More specifically, the env gene but not the long terminal repeat PBj was required for acute disease induction; however env must act in concert with another gene(s) of the PBj genome.