X4 and R5 HIV strains are present in the semen of men infected with HIV but R5 isolates are transmitted preferentially. The role of human epithelial cells in this selection is addressed. Three human cervical cell lines—CaSki, SiHa, and HEC1A—and normal human vaginal cells from HIV-negative donors were characterized for HIV receptor expression and incubated with X4 and R5 laboratory-adapted strains or primary isolates. The infection was assessed by detection of intracellular HIV DNA. The three cell lines were shown to express on their surface the CXCR4 and GalCer molecules, but not the CD4 and CCR5 ones. The three cell lines and normal human vaginal cells were found to be selectively permissive to X4 HIV entry; the preincubation of the cell lines with rhSDF-1 inhibited this infection. The detection of the intracellular proviral DNA in the cell lines and in normal human vaginal cells demonstrated a selective integration of X4 strains. Additional experiments showed that no extracellular RNA was detected in the supernatants of HEC1A cells infected by X4 isolates either after 18 days of culture or after incubation with PHA-stimulated PBMCs and that no transmission occurred after co-culture between infected HEC1A cells and PHA-stimulated PBMCs. These results suggest specific sequestration of X4 strains by genital epithelial cells, which could explain, at least in part, the HIV tropism selection process during sexual intercourse. J. Med. Virol. 77:465–474, 2005. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, inc.