Both foscarnet (PFA) and zidovudine (AZT) select for drug-resistant variants of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1), but the interactions between the mutations causing such resistance are unknown. The introduction of the previously identified PFA resistance mutation W to G at codon 88 (W88G), E89K, L92I, or Q161L into an HIV-1 strain having the four known AZT resistance mutations completely reversed high-level AZT resistance. Two additional PFA resistance mutations, W88S and S156A, partially suppressed AZT resistance. Phenotypic reversion of AZT resistance by W88S, W88G, E89K, L921, and S156A was associated with a concomitant suppression of PFA resistance. The degree to which PFA resistance mutations reversed AZT resistance was directly correlated with each mutation's ability to confer high-level PFA resistance (> or = 5.0-fold) and AZT hypersusceptibility in a wild-type genetic background. Highly PFA-resistant HIV- 1 strains were hypersusceptible to AZT; conversely, AZT-resistant strains with M41L and T215Y; M41L, L210W, and T215Y; or M41L, D67N, K70R, and T215Y mutations were 2.2- to 2.5-fold hypersusceptible to PFA. Prolonged in vitro selection of wild-type or AZT-resistant HIV-1 strains with the combination AZT and PFA failed to generate coresistant virus, indicating that dual resistance was relatively difficult to achieve. Strains selected by passage in PFA plus AZT were phenotypically PFA resistant and AZT susceptible despite multiple reverse transcriptase mutations known to confer AZT resistance. These data show that PFA resistance mutations can phenotypically reverse AZT resistance and that AZT and PFA resistance might be mutually exclusive. The reciprocal interactions between AZT and PFA resistance-conferring mutations have implications for structure-function studies of the HIV-1 reverse transcriptase.