We have examined the role of the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) Tat protein in the regulation of reverse transcription. We show that a two-exon but not a one-exon form of Tat markedly suppressed cell-free reverse transcriptase (RT) activity. Conversely, viruses expressing two-exon Tat (pNL43 and pNL101) showed rapid replication kinetics and more efficient endogenous RT activity compared with viruses expressing one-exon Tat (pM1ex). The pM1ex virions, as well as pM1ex-infected cells, also contained higher levels of viral DNA than did either the pNL43 or pNL101 viruses, indicating that reverse transcription might have continued during later stages of viral replication in the absence of the second Tat exon. Moreover, degradation of viral genomic RNA was more apparent in the pM1ex virions. Accordingly, we propose that the two-exon Tat may help augment viral infectivity by suppressing the reverse transcription reaction during late stages of viral synthesis and by preventing the synthesis of potentially deleterious viral DNA products.