UC 38, a simple analog of oxathiin carboxanilide, UC 84, lacking the oxathiin ring, was found to be a potent inhibitor of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-1-induced cell killing and HIV replication in a variety of human cell lines, as well as in human peripheral blood lymphocytes and macrophages. UC 38 was active against a wide range of biologically diverse laboratory and clinical strains of HIV-1. However, UC 38 was inactive against HIV-2 and both nevirapine- and pyridinone-resistant strains of HIV-1. UC 38 selectively inhibited HIV-1 reverse transcriptase (RT), but not HIV-2 RT. Combination of UC 38 with 3'-azido-3'-deoxythymidine synergistically inhibited HIV-induced cell killing. An HIV-1 isolate resistant to UC 38 was selected in cell culture, and the mutations in the RT nucleotide sequences were determined. Comparison with the wild-type RT sequence revealed an amino acid change at position 181 (Tyr to Cys). The UC 38-resistant virus was found to be cross-resistant to a variety of structurally diverse non-nucleoside RT inhibitors. UC 38 was susceptible to rapid degradation in vitro and in vivo; yet, nontoxic in vivo concentrations of UC 38 many-fold in excess of the in vitro effective concentrations could be achieved and maintained after s.c. or p.o. administration in hamsters. These results establish UC 38 as a new chemotype within the general class of HIV-1-specific RT inhibitors. The favorable physical characteristics, lack of toxicity, potency and bioavailability of UC 38 may make it a candidate for combination chemotherapy of acquired immune deficiency syndrome.