We compared the inhibition of HIV-1 reverse transcriptase (RT) by 1-[2',5'-bis-O-(t-butyldimethylsilyl)-beta-D-ribofuranosyl]-3'- spiro-5"-(4"-amino-1", 2"-oxathiole-2",2"-dioxide)-3-ethylthymine (TSAOe3T) and the nonnucleoside RT inhibitor (NNRTI) 9-aminonevirapine (9-NH2N). Both compounds were equally effective against p51/p66 heterodimeric RT RNA-dependent DNA polymerase activity, although TSAOe3T was a much better inhibitor of the p51/p51 and p66/p66 RT homodimers. Inhibition by TSAOe3T and 9-NH2N combinations was essentially additive. TSAOe3T did not protect either free RT or the RT-template/ primer-deoxynucleoside triphosphate ternary complex from irreversible inactivation by the photolabel 9-azidonevirapine. Slight protection of the RT-template/primer binary complex was noted, but only at high TSAOe3T/photolabel ratios. Analysis of RT polymerization product profiles under both continuous- and single-processive cycle conditions showed that 9-NH2N prevented the formation of full-length product with a corresponding accumulation of smaller polymerization products. In contrast, all products formed in the absence of inhibitor, including full-length product, were noted in TSAOe3T-inhibited reactions, albeit at reduced levels. TSAOe3T thus inhibits HIV-1 RT by a different mechanism than NNRTI such as nevirapine. Our data suggest that TSAOe3T and 9-NH2N interact differently with HIV-1 RT, perhaps by binding to distinct sites on the enzyme.