The present study evaluated the in vitro response to different mitogens and a candidin antigen (CMA) in Human T-cell lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) and co-infected HIV-1/HTLV-1 patients, to identify if this co-infection may modify the spontaneous lymph proliferative response. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells from 72 healthy seronegative controls, 75 asymptomatic HTLV-1-infected carriers, 42 HAM/TSP cases, 33 solely HIV-1-infected subjects and 24 HIV-1/HTLV-1 patients were assayed in the presence and absence of mitogens (PHA, PWM and OKT3) and CMA. The HAM/TSP group had the highest proliferation rate at 3 and 6 days after culture. HAM/TSP cases showed decreased response to PHA, compared with asymptomatic HTLV-1 subjects, and most important, the co-infected HIV-1/HTLV-1 cases presented a similar response to HTLV-1-infected subjects after 3 days of culture. The singles HIV-1-infected group had decreased in vitro response. It appears that during co-infection, the HTLV-1 regulatory proteins overwhelm the action of HIV-1 regulatory proteins.