Infection of receptor-bearing cells by coronaviruses is mediated by their spike (S) proteins. The coronavirus (SARS-CoV) that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) infects cells expressing the receptor angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2). Here we show that codon optimization of the SARS-CoV S-protein gene substantially enhanced S-protein expression. We also found that two retroviruses, simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) and murine leukemia virus, both expressing green fluorescent protein and pseudotyped with SARS-CoV S protein or S-protein variants, efficiently infected HEK293T cells stably expressing ACE2. Infection mediated by an S-protein variant whose cytoplasmic domain had been truncated and altered to include a fragment of the cytoplasmic tail of the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 envelope glycoprotein was, in both cases, substantially more efficient than that mediated by wild-type S protein. Using S-protein-pseudotyped SIV, we found that the enzymatic activity of ACE2 made no contribution to S-protein-mediated infection. Finally, we show that a soluble and catalytically inactive form of ACE2 potently blocked infection by S-protein-pseudotyped retrovirus and by SARS-CoV. These results permit studies of SARS-CoV entry inhibitors without the use of live virus and suggest a candidate therapy for SARS.