There are already reports, from clinical trials with human immunodeficiency virus type 1 protease inhibitors, of the emergence of drug-resistant mutants which have one or more point mutations in their protease genes. To examine roles of individual and multiple amino acid substitutions in terms of altered enzyme and virus drug sensitivities, we have produced matched vectors for bacterial expression and virus production. Both vectors accept the same restriction enzyme fragment, produced by PCR or PCR-mutagenesis of the protease gene, allowing parallel expression of mutant enzymes in Escherichia coli and in recombinant viruses. The utility of this vector system was demonstrated by using protease variants glycine to valine at amino acid 48 (G48V) and leucine to methionine at amino acid 90 (L90M) identified after passage of HIV-1 in the Roche phase II clinical trial protease inhibitor Ro 31-8959 (H. Jacobsen, K. Yasargil, D. L. Winslow, J. C. Craig, A. Krohn, I. B. Duncan, and J. Mous, Virology 206:527, 1995). G48V, L90M, and G48V/L90M exhibited successively less processing in vitro than the wild-type enzyme, and the purified enzymes were 220-, 20-, and 720-fold, respectively, less sensitive to Ro 31-8959. The reduced enzyme sensitivity correlated directly with the sensitivities of the matched recombinant viruses, in that individual mutations L90M and G48V conferred 2-fold and 4- to 6-fold increases in 50% inhibitory concentration, respectively, whereas G48V/L90M was 8 to 10 times less sensitive to Ro 31-8959. A proviral vector with the entire protease gene deleted was constructed for use as an in vivo recombination target for an overlapping protease PCR fragment, generating wild-type infectious virus. Finally, direct ligation of restriction fragments, generated from random PCR mutagenesis, into the proviral vector should provide a library of protease mutations that allow extremely rapid selection of highly resistant viral variants.