We have modified an Escherichia coli vector expressing 66-kDa HIV-1 reverse transcriptase (p66) so that it simultaneously expresses this and the pol-coded protease. The twin expression cassette yields high quantities of both reverse transcriptase and protease; however, under these conditions, 50% of the over-expressed p66 reverse transcriptase is processed, resulting in accumulation of large quantities of p66/p51 enzyme. Furthermore, addition of a poly(histidine) affinity label at the amino terminus of the reverse-transcriptase-coding sequence (His-p66) permits a simple, rapid purification of milligram quantities of either p66 or p66/p51 enzyme from a crude lysate by metal chelate affinity chromatography. Purified His-p66 and His-p66/His-p51 reverse transcriptase exhibit both reverse transcriptase and RNase H activity. Purification by metal chelate chromatography of a p66/p51 enzyme wherein only the p66 component is labelled strengthens the argument for the existence of a heterodimer.