The M184V substitution in human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) reverse transcriptase (RT) encodes high-level resistance to the (-)-enantiomer of 2',3'-dideoxy-3'-thiacytidine (3TC) and low-level resistance to each of 2',3'-dideoxycytidine (ddC) and 2',3'-dideoxyinosine (ddI). This mutation also results in decreased HIV replication fitness in primary cells, diminished RT processivity, and increased RT fidelity. To assess the effect of this substitution on genetic variation in the HIV env region, we cultured both M184V-containing and wild-type BH10 in MT-4 cells in the presence of the neutralizing monoclonal antibody 447-52D, targeted to the GPGR epitope within the V3 loop of gp120. Outgrowth of viruses resistant to neutralization was followed by sequence analysis of the V3 loop by standard methodology. Wild-type HIV first showed escape after 15-22 days in culture. Sequence analysis revealed an arginine-to-lysine change within the GPGR epitope in the V3 loop (R20K, AGA --> AAA) in six of six clones sequenced after day 36. In contrast, M184V-containing HIV first showed escape between days 25 and 32 and sequence analysis revealed an aspartate-to-tyrosine change at amino acid 5 in V3 (N5Y; AAC --> TAC) in two of six clones at day 36 and in five of five clones at day 55. Similar results were obtained in two independent antibody selection protocols. The escape mutation in the wild type is consistent with the G --> A hypermutation observed in wild-type HIV-1, recently shown to cause an initial M184I change (before M184V) in 3TC-treated patients. In contrast, the N5Y substitution seen with M184V-containing HIV-1 is an A --> T transversion in V3.