The vinylogous urea, NSC727447, was proposed to allosterically inhibit ribonuclease H (RNase H) activity of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 reverse transcriptase (HIV-1 RT) by interacting with the thumb subdomain of its non-catalytic p51 subunit. Proximity of the p51 thumb to the p66 RNase H domain implied that inhibitor binding altered active site geometry, whereas protein footprinting suggested a contribution from α-helix I residues Cys-280 and Lys-281. To more thoroughly characterize the vinylogous urea binding site, horizontal alanine scanning mutagenesis between p51 residues Lys-275 and Thr-286 (comprising α-helix I and portions of the neighboring αH/αI and αI/αJ connecting loops) was combined with a limited vertical scan of Cys-280. A contribution from Cys-280 was strengthened by our observation that all substitutions at this position rendered selectively mutated, reconstituted p66/p51 heterodimers ∼45-fold less sensitive to inhibition. An ∼19-fold reduced IC(50) for p51 mutant T286A coupled with a 2-8-fold increased IC(50) when intervening residues were substituted supports our original proposal of p51 α-helix I as the vinylogous urea binding site. In contrast to these allosteric inhibitors, mutant enzymes retained equivalent sensitivity to the natural product α-hydroxytropolone inhibitor manicol, which x-ray crystallography has demonstrated functions by chelating divalent metal at the p66 RNase H active site. Finally, reduced DNA strand-transfer activity together with increased vinylogous urea sensitivity of p66/p51 heterodimers containing short p51 C-terminal deletions suggests an additional role for the p51 C terminus in nucleic acid binding that is compromised by inhibitor binding.