High-throughput screening of a National Cancer Institute library of pure natural products identified the hydroxylated tropolone derivatives beta-thujaplicinol (2,7-dihydroxy-4-1(methylethyl)-2,4,6-cycloheptatrien-1-one) and manicol (1,2,3,4-tetrahydro-5-7-dihydroxy-9-methyl-2-(1-methylethenyl)-6H-benzocyclohepten-6-one) as potent and selective inhibitors of the ribonuclease H (RNase H) activity of human immunodeficiency virus-type 1 reverse transcriptase (HIV-1 RT). beta-Thujaplicinol inhibited HIV-1 RNase H in vitro with an IC50 of 0.2 microM, while the IC50 for Escherichia coli and human RNases H was 50 microM and 5.7 microM, respectively. In contrast, the related tropolone analog beta-thujaplicin (2-hydroxy-4-(methylethyl)-2,4,6-cycloheptatrien-1-one), which lacks the 7-OH group of the heptatriene ring, was inactive, while manicol, which possesses a 7-OH group, inhibited HIV-1 and E.coli RNases H with IC50 = 1.5 microM and 40 microM, respectively. Such a result highlights the importance of the 2,7-dihydroxy function of these tropolone analogs, possibly through a role in metal chelation at the RNase H active site. Inhibition of HIV-2 RT-associated RNase H indirectly indicates that these compounds do not occupy the nonnucleoside inhibitor-binding pocket in the vicinity of the DNA polymerase domain. Both beta-thujaplicinol and manicol failed to inhibit DNA-dependent DNA polymerase activity of HIV-1 RT at a concentration of 50 microM, suggesting that they are specific for the C-terminal RNase H domain, while surface plasmon resonance studies indicated that the inhibition was not due to intercalation of the analog into the nucleic acid substrate. Finally, we have demonstrated synergy between beta-thujaplicinol and calanolide A, a nonnucleoside inhibitor of HIV-1 RT, raising the possibility that both enzymatic activities of HIV-1 RT can be simultaneously targeted.