Treatment of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 reverse transcriptase (HIV-1 RT) with N-ethylmaleimide (NEM) selectively inhibits the RNase H activity. The cysteine residue at position 280 (C280) is the target for NEM; HIV-1 RT carrying the mutation C280S is resistant to NEM. Since HIV-1 RT is composed of two related subunits (p66 and p51) that play distinct roles, we asked whether the C280 in p51 or the C280 in p66 is responsible for the sensitivity of the enzyme to NEM. HIV-1 RT versions were prepared that had one mutant and one wild-type subunit. When these chimeric enzymes were tested, both the p51 and p66 subunits were found to contribute to the sensitivity of the enzyme to NEM. The implications of these results are discussed in the context of the structure of the enzyme.