The Rev proteins of the related but distinct human immunodeficiency virus types 1 and 2 (HIV-1 and HIV-2) display incomplete functional reciprocity. One possible explanation for this observation is that HIV-2 Rev is unable to interact with the HIV-1 Rev-response element (RRE1). However, an analysis of the biological activity of chimeric proteins derived from HIV-1 and HIV-2 Rev reveals that this target specificity does not map to the Rev RNA binding domain but is instead primarily determined by sequences known to mediate Rev multimerization. Both HIV-1 and HIV-2 Rev are shown to bind the RRE1 in vitro with identical RNA sequence specificity. The observation that HIV-2 Rev can inhibit RRE1-dependent HIV-1 Rev function in trans indicates that the direct interaction of HIV-2 Rev with the RRE1 also occurs in vivo. These data suggest that HIV-2 Rev forms a protein-RNA complex with the RRE1 that leads to only minimal Rev activity. It is hypothesized that this low level of Rev function results from the incomplete and/or aberrant multimerization of HIV-2 Rev on this heterologous RNA target sequence.