Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is a lentivirus associated with an immunodeficiency syndrome of the domestic cat. A short open reading frame (ORF2), of unknown function, is present in all FIV isolates. We have investigated the role of ORF2 in determining the cell tropism of two infectious molecular clones of FIV. FIV-PPR is able to productively infect feline peripheral blood leukocytes (PBLs) and a T lymphocyte cell line (MCH5-4), but not a feline astrocyte cell line (G355-5) or Crandell feline kidney cells (CrFK). In contrast, FIV-34TF10 is able to productively infect G355-5 and CrFK cells, but not PBLs or MCH5-4 cells. The major difference in these FIV clones is that ORF2 in FIV-PPR is capable of encoding a 79-amino-acid peptide, whereas there is a stop codon in ORF2 after 43 amino acids in FIV-34TF10. We performed site-directed mutagenesis to change the stop codon (TGA) in FIV-34TF10 to a tryptophan (TGG), the amino acid present at this location in FIV-PPR. FIV-34TF10 with ORF2 repaired (FIV-ORF2rep) productively infected PBLs, MCH5-4 cells, and primary macrophages, as well as CrFK and G355-5 cells, indicating that a protein encoded by ORF2 plays a role in determining the host cell tropism of FIV. ORF2 contains hydrophobic, acidic, and leucine-rich domains similar to those shown to be important for transactivating proteins of other lentiviruses. Coexpression of a plasmid expressing the ORF2 gene product with another construct expressing the chloramphenicol acetyl transferase (CAT) gene driven by the FIV LTR, resulted in transactivation of CAT expression in both feline and human cells.