We generated variants of the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) that are resistant to 2',3'-dideoxycytidine (ddC) and 2',3'-didehydro-3'-deoxythymidine (d4T) by in vitro selection in MT-4 cells. Portions of flanking protease and integrase sequences as well as the complete reverse transcriptase (RT) open-reading frame of these viruses were cloned and sequenced, using polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based methods. Mutations were observed at amino acid position 65 (Lys-->Arg; AAA-->AGA) when ddC was employed in the selection procedure and at site 50 (Ile-->Thr; ATT-->ACT) when d4T was used. We confirmed the ability of these mutations to confer diminished sensitivity for these compounds by site-directed mutagenesis, in which these mutations were inserted into the pol gene of infectious recombinant HXB2-D DNA. Viruses that contained the site 65 mutation possessed approximately 5-10 fold resistance against ddC when compared with wild-type HXB2-D. The site 50 mutation conferred approximately 30-fold resistance to d4T in these same assays. Similar results were obtained using primary cord blood lymphocytes in drug resistance assays, indicating that these mutations could confer drug resistance in more than one cell type and that the respective mutations could be expressed in cells of primary origin. No cross-resistance against 3'-azido-3'-deoxythymidine (AZT) was noted for either the site 65 or 50 mutations.