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Cats were immunized three times with different recombinant feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) candidate vaccines. Recombinant vaccinia virus (rVV)-expressed envelope glycoprotein with (vGR657) or without (vGR657 x 15) the cleavage site and an FIV envelope bacterial fusion protein (beta-Galactosidase-Env) were incorporated into immune-stimulating complexes or adjuvanted with Quil A. Although all immunized cats developed antibodies against the envelope protein, only the cats vaccinated with the rVV-expressed envelope glycoproteins developed antibodies which neutralized FIV infection of Crandell feline kidney cells. These antibodies failed to neutralize infection of thymocytes with a molecularly cloned homologous FIV. After the third immunization the cats were challenged with homologous FIV. Two weeks after challenge the cell-associated viral load proved to be significantly higher in the cats immunized with vGR657 and vGR657 x 15 than in the other cats. The cats immunized with vGR657 and vGR657 x 15 also developed antibodies against the Gag proteins more rapidly than the cats immunized with beta-Galactosidase-Env or the control cats. This suggested that immunization with rVV-expressed glycoprotein of FIV results in enhanced infectivity of FIV. It was shown that the observed enhancement could be transferred to naive cats with plasma collected at the day of challenge.