Vinylogous ureas 2-amino-5,6,7,8-tetrahydro-4H-cyclohepta[b]thiophene-3-carboxamide and N-[3-(aminocarbonyl)-4,5-dimethyl-2-thienyl]-2-furancarboxamide (compounds 1 and 2, respectively) were recently identified to be modestly potent inhibitors of the RNase H activity of HIV-1 and HIV-2 reverse transcriptase (RT). Both compounds shared a 3-CONH(2)-substituted thiophene ring but were otherwise structurally unrelated, which prevented a precise definition of the pharmacophore. We have therefore examined a larger series of vinylogous ureas carrying amide, amine, and cycloalkane modifications of the thiophene ring of compound 1. While cycloheptane- and cyclohexane-substituted derivatives retained potency, cyclopentane and cyclooctane substitutions eliminated activity. In the presence of a cycloheptane ring, modifying the 2-NH(2) or 3-CONH(2) functions decreased the potency. With respect to compound 2, vinylogous ureas whose dimethylthiophene ring contained modifications of the 2-NH(2) and 3-CONH(2) functions were investigated. 2-NH(2)-modified analogs displayed potency equivalent to or enhanced over that of compound 2, the most active of which, compound 16, reflected intramolecular cyclization of the 2-NH(2) and 3-CONH(2) groups. Molecular modeling was used to define an inhibitor binding site in the p51 thumb subdomain, suggesting that an interaction with the catalytically conserved His539 of the p66 RNase H domain could underlie inhibition of RNase H activity. Collectively, our data indicate that multiple functional groups of vinylogous ureas contribute to their potencies as RNase H inhibitors. Finally, single-molecule spectroscopy indicates that vinylogous ureas have the property of altering the reverse transcriptase orientation on a model RNA-DNA hybrid mimicking initiation plus-strand DNA synthesis.