Previous work has shown that spleen necrosis virus (SNV) long terminal repeats (LTRs) are associated with Rex/Rex-responsive element-independent expression of bovine leukemia virus RNA and supports the hypothesis that SNV RNA contains a cis-acting element that interacts with cellular Rex-like proteins. To test this hypothesis, the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV) Rev/RRE-dependent gag gene was used as a reporter to analyze various SNV sequences. Gag enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and Western blot analyses reveal that HIV Gag production is enhanced at least 20,000-fold by the 5' SNV LTR in COS, D17, and 293 cells. Furthermore, SNV RU5 in the sense but not the antisense orientation is sufficient to confer Rev/RRE- independent expression onto a cytomegalovirus-gag plasmid. In contrast, the SNV 3' LTR and 3' untranslated sequence between env and the LTR did not support Rev-independent gag expression. Quantitative RNase protection assays indicate that the SNV 5' RNA terminus enhances cytoplasmic accumulation and polysome association of HIV unspliced and spliced transcripts. However, comparison of the absolute amounts of polysomal RNA indicates that polysome association is not sufficient to account for the significant increase in Gag production by the SNV sequences. Our analysis reveals that the SNV 5' RNA terminus contains a unique cis-acting posttranscriptional control element that interacts with hypothetical cellular Rev-like proteins to facilitate HIV RNA transport and efficient translation.