The initiation of reverse transcription of the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) genome requires cellular tRNA(Lys,3) as a primer and occurs at a site in the viral RNA genome, designated as the primer binding site (PBS), which is complementary to the 3'-terminal 18 nucleotides of tRNA(Lys,3). We previously described an HIV-1 virus [designated as HXB2(His-AC)], which contained a sequence within the U5 region complementary to the anticodon region of tRNA(His) in addition to a PBS complementary to the 3'-terminal 18 nucleotides of the tRNA(His). That virus maintained a PBS complementary to tRNA(His) after extended in vitro culture (Wakefield et al., J. Virol. 70, 966-975, 1996). In the present study, we report that subcloning a 200-base-pair DNA fragment encompassing the U5 and PBS regions from an integrated provirus of HXB2(His-AC) back into the wild-type genome (pHXB2) resulted in an infectious virus, designated as HXB2(His-AC-gac), which again stably maintained a PBS complementary to tRNA(His). DNA sequence analysis of the 200-base-pair region revealed only three nucleotide changes from HXB2(His-AC): a T-to-G change at nucleotide 174, a G-to-A change at nucleotide 181, and a T-to-C change at nucleotide 200. The new mutant virus replicated in CD4+ Sup T1 cells similarly to the wild-type virus. Comparison of the nucleotide sequence of nucleocapsid gene of the wild-type and HXB2 (His-AC-gac) virus revealed no differences. Although we found numerous mutations in the reverse transcriptase gene in proviral clones derived from HXB2 (His-AC-gac), no common mutations were found among the 13 clones examined. Comparison of the virion-associated tRNAs of HXB2(His-AC-gac) with those of the wild type revealed that both viruses incorporated a similar subset of cellular tRNAs, with tRNA(Lys,3) being the predominant tRNA found within virions. There was no selective enrichment for tRNA(His) within virions of HXB2(His-AC-gac) virus which selectively use tRNA(His) to initiate reverse transcription. The results of these studies suggest that the U5 and PBS regions in the viral RNA genome are important determinants for HXB2(His-AC) viruses in the selective use of tRNA(His) to initiate reverse transcription.