We report the results of an investigation of the inhibition of the ATP-mediated HIV-1 reverse transcriptase catalyzed phosphorolysis in vitro of AZT from AZT-terminated DNA primers by a series of 42 bisphosphonates. The four most active compounds possess neutral, halogen-substituted phenyl or biphenyl sidechains and have IC(50) values < 1 microM in excision inhibition assays. Use of two comparative molecular similarity analysis methods to analyze these inhibition results yielded a classification model with an overall accuracy of 94%, and a regression model having good accord with experiment (q(2)=0.63, r(2)=0.91), with the experimental activities being predicted within, on average, a factor of 2. The most active species had little or no toxicity against three human cell lines (IC(50)(avg) > 200 microM). These results are of general interest since they suggest that it may be possible to develop potent bisphosphonate-based AZT-excision inhibitors with little cellular toxicity, opening up a new route to restoring AZT sensitivity in otherwise resistant HIV-1 strains.