Previous studies have demonstrated that nonnucleoside reverse transcriptase (RT) inhibitors (NNRTIs) act as chemical enhancers of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) RT dimerization. In the current study, we sought to define the role of key residues (101, 103, 108, 181, 188, 190, 225 and 318) in the NNRTI-binding pocket on HIV-1 RT heterodimer stability. Thirteen mutant RTs were constructed and evaluated for p66/p51 RT heterodimer formation using the well-established yeast two-hybrid assay. We found that the mutations K101A, P225H, Y318F and Y318W decreased RT heterodimer stability whereas K103N, V108I, V108W, Y181C, Y188L, G190A, G190E, G190W and P225W increased RT heterodimer stability. While these results demonstrate that residues that comprise the NNRTI-binding pocket contribute to the stability of p66/p51 HIV-1 RT, they did not suggest any obvious correlation between RT dimer stability and the extent of NNRTI resistance. Remarkably, mutations at residue G190 (A, E, W) in the p66 RT subunit were found to dramatically increase heterodimer stability. Notably, the G190W mutation increased RT dimer stability almost to the same extent as did 5 microM efavirenz. In light of these findings, we characterized the in vitro activity of recombinant RT expressing mutations at G190 in the p66 subunit only and compared them with a wild-type enzyme complexed with efavirenz. We found that while mutations at G190 had a significant effect on both the DNA polymerase and ribonuclease H activity of the enzyme, their phenotypic effects did not mirror those induced by efavirenz-binding to RT.