Because T-helper cells are critical for immune responses in retroviral infections, CD4+ T-cell lines specific for the human T-leukemia virus type 1 (HTLV-1) envelope have been generated from peripheral T lymphocytes of nonimmune donors to study their naive repertoire. Recombinant fragments (RE1, amino acids [aa] 26-200; RE3, aa 165-307; RE5, aa 308-401; and RE6, aa 165-401) of HTLV-1 envelope, whole envelope glycoprotein, and synthetic peptides were used to induce T-cell lines. CD4+ T-cell lines specific for one or more fragments were obtained from seven of eight individuals tested. T-cell lines generated against envelope glycoprotein from five of five donors did not cross-react with the RE fragments and vice versa. The lines specific for RE and env were mapped with overlapping peptides. The lines with single peptide (narrow) specificity contained a variety of clones that used different T-cell receptor V beta genes. These data (1) suggest that most of the normal individuals carry T-helper precursors specific for epitopes on HTLV-1 envelope; (2) indicate that heterogeneity of HTLV-1 envelope-specific T cells can be detected in the naive repertoire; and (3) define optimal antigenic preparations to be used to assess cellular immunity in HTLV-1-infected individuals.