gp120 and CD4 are two glycoproteins that are considered to interact together to allow the binding of HIV to CD4+ cells. We have utilized enzymatic digestion by endoglycosidases in order to analyze N-linked carbohydrate chains of these proteins and their possible role in the interaction of gp120 or gp160 with CD4. SDS denaturation was not necessary to obtain optimal deglycosylation of either molecule, but deglycosylation of CD4, nonetheless, depended on the presence of 1% Triton X-100. Endo H and Endo F that cleave high mannose type and biantennary glycans diminish the molecular mass of the glycoproteins from 120 or 160 Kd to 90 or 130 Kd, respectively; but these enzymes had no action on CD4 glycans. Endo F N-glycanase mixture, which acts on all glycan species, including triantennary chains, led to complete deglycosylation of gp120/160 and of CD4. Therefore, probably half of the glycan moieties of gp120/160 are composed of high mannose and biantennary chains, the other half being triantennary species. The carbohydrate structures of CD4 seems to be triantennary chains. To analyze the binding of gp120/160 to CD4, we used a molecular assay in which an mAb (110-4) coupled to Sepharose CL4B allowed the attachment of soluble gp120/160 to the beads; 125I-sCD4 was then added to measure the binding of CD4 to different amounts of gp120/160. Binding to gp160 was not modified when using completely deglycosylated 125I-sCD4, while deglycosylation of gp120 or of gp160 resulted in the decrease of the binding to native CD4 by two- and fivefold, respectively. Native and deglycosylated gp120/160 bound to CD4+ cells with comparable affinities. In addition, deglycosylated gp120 displaced 125I-gp160 binding to CD4+ cells and inhibited fusion of fresh Molt-T4 cells with CEM HIV1- or HIV2-infected cells to the same extent. Taken together, these results indicate that carbohydrates of CD4 and of gp120/160 do not play a significant role in the in vitro interaction between these two molecules.