The relatively low fidelity of DNA synthesis characteristic to the reverse transcriptases (RTs) of the AIDS-causing viruses, human immunodeficiency viruses types 1 and 2 (HIV-1 and HIV-2, respectively) was implicated as a dominant factor that contributes to the genetic hypervariability of these viruses. The formation of 3'-mispaired DNA and the subsequent extension of this DNA were shown to be key determinants that lead to the error proneness of these RTs. As part of our goal to study the structure/function relationship in HIV-1 RT, we have conducted mutational studies aimed at identifying amino-acid residues involved in affecting the fidelity of DNA synthesis by the enzyme. We have recently found that two mutants of HIV-1 RT, which show resistance to nucleoside analog inhibitors ([Leu184]RT and [Phe183]RT), exhibit in vitro error proneness of DNA synthesis lower than that of wild-type enzyme [Bakhanshvili, M., Avidan, O. & Hizi, A. (1996) Mutational studies of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 reverse transcriptase: the involvement of residues 183 and 184 in the fidelity of DNA synthesis, FEBS Lett. 391, 257-262]. Using both criteria, the current comparative study suggests that these two mutant RTs display a substantially enhanced fidelity of DNA synthesis relative to the wild-type RT counterpart. In the current study we have analyzed two additional drug-resistant mutants of HIV-1 RT, [Val74]RT and [Gly89]RT, for their in vitro fidelity of DNA synthesis using two parameters of DNA synthesis: 3' mispair formation and elongation of 3'-mismatched DNA. The current comparative study suggests that these two mutant RTs display a substantially enhanced fidelity of DNA synthesis relative to the wild-type RT counterpart, using both criteria. Analysis of the relative frequencies of misinsertion and mispair extension indicates that the overall error proneness of DNA synthesis in HIV-1 RT is wild-type > [Val74]RT > [Gly89]RT mutant. The results further support the possible linkage between the capacity of an enzyme to incorporate a nucleoside analog instead of the correct dNTP (leading to drug sensitivity) and the ability to incorporate and extend a wrong nucleotide (resulting in mutagenesis). Our results may bear on the potential use of selecting and maintaining HIV virions with high fidelity and drug-resistant RTs to suppress the subsequent appearance of virions resistant to other drugs.