The life cycle of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) is critically dependent on the transregulatory proteins Tat and Rev. Tat increases the production of HIV-specific mRNAs by direct binding to the transactivation response (TAR) element located at the 5' end of all HIV transcripts. In contrast, Rev uses a complex RNA stem loop structure, the Rev response element (RRE), which is found in full-length and singly spliced HIV transcripts. Rev is required for the cytoplasmic expression of full-length mRNAs encoding Gag, Pol, and Env structural proteins. The complex intracellular interactions between Tat, Rev, host cell factors, and their respective RNA response elements should be susceptible to interdiction by genetic therapies designed to introduce and express novel genetic information. We show that the expression of antisense RREs inhibited the cytoplasmic expression of RRE containing HIV-1 transcripts. HIV-based retroviral vectors containing either the antisense (-) or sense (+) RREs inhibited HIV replication in transient transfections. The production of full-length HIV mRNA was also decreased significantly by the expression of RREs in either orientation. Interestingly, there was a paradoxic increase in HIV p24 gag production at low levels of inhibitor; this effect may have been the result of encapsidation of RRE-containing HIV-based retroviral vectors. The data suggest that the introduction and inducible expression of RRE-containing, HIV-based retroviral vectors may have therapeutic value in HIV infection.