The human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) accessory protein Nef stimulates viral infectivity by facilitating an early event in the HIV-1 life cycle. Although no structural or biochemical defects in Nef-defective HIV-1 particles have been demonstrated, the Nef protein is incorporated into HIV-1 particles. To localize the function of Nef within the virus particle, we developed a novel technology involving fusion of enveloped donor HIV-1 particles bearing core defects with envelope-defective target virions bearing HIV-1 receptors. Although neither virus alone was capable of infecting CD4(+) target cells, the incubation of donor and target virions prior to addition to target cells resulted in infection. This effect, termed "virion transcomplementation," required a functional Env protein on the donor virus and CD4 and an appropriate coreceptor on target virions. To provide evidence for intervirion fusion as the mechanism of complementation, experiments were performed using dual-enveloped HIV-1 particles bearing both HIV-1 and ecotropic murine leukemia virus (E-MLV) Env proteins as donor virions. Infection of CD4-negative target cells bearing E-MLV receptors was prevented by HIV-1 entry inhibitors when added before, but not after, incubation of donor and target virions prior to the addition to cells. When we used Nef(+) and Nef(-) donor and target virions, Nef enhanced infection when present in donor virions. In contrast, no effect of Nef was detected when present in the target virus. These results reveal a potential mechanism for enhancing HIV-1 diversity in vivo through the rescue of defective viral genomes and provide a novel genetic system for the functional analysis of virion-associated proteins in HIV-1 infection.