The amount of excess polymerase and RNase H activity in human immunodeficiency virus type 1 virions was measured by using vectors that undergo a single round of replication. Vectors containing wild-type reverse transcriptase (RT), vectors encoding the D110E mutation to inactivate polymerase, and vectors encoding mutations D443A and E478Q to inactivate RNase H were constructed. 293 cells were cotransfected with different proportions of plasmids encoding these vectors to generate phenotypically mixed virions. The resulting viruses were used to infect human osteosarcoma cells, and the relative infectivity of the viruses was determined by measuring transduction of the murine cell surface marker CD24, which is encoded by the vectors. The results indicated that there is an excess of both polymerase and RNase H activities in virions. Viral replication was reduced to 42% of wild-type levels in virions with where half of the RT molecules were predicted to be catalytically active but dropped to 3% of wild-type levels when 25% of the RT molecules were active. However, reducing RNase H activity had a lesser effect on viral replication. As expected, based on previous work with murine leukemia virus, there was relatively inefficient virus replication when the RNase H and polymerase activities were encoded on separate vectors (D110E plus E478Q and D110E plus D443A). To determine how virus replication failed when polymerase and RNase H activities were reduced, reverse transcription intermediates were measured in vector-infected cells by using quantitative real-time PCR. The results indicated that using the D11OE mutation to reduce the amount of active polymerase reduced the number of reverse transcripts that were initiated and also reduced the amounts of products from the late stages of reverse transcription. If the E478Q mutation was used to reduce RNase H activity, the number of reverse transcripts that were initiated was reduced; there was also a strong effect on minus-strand transfer.