Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) proteases (PRs) share only 23% amino acid identity and exhibit distinct specificities yet have very similar 3-dimensional structures. Chimeric PRs in which HIV residues were substituted in structurally equivalent positions in FIV PR were prepared in order to study the molecular basis of PR specificity. Previous in vitro analyses showed that such substitutions dramatically altered the inhibitor specificity of mutant PRs but changed the rate and specificity of Gag cleavage so that chimeric FIVs were not infectious. Chimeric PRs encoding combinations of the I37V, N55M, M56I, V59I, L97T, I98P, Q99V, and P100N mutations were cloned into FIV Gag-Pol, and those constructs that best approximated the temporal cleavage pattern generated by wild-type FIV PR, while maintaining HIV-like inhibitor specificity, were selected. Two mutations, M56I and L97T, were intolerant to change and caused inefficient cleavage at NC-p2. However, a mutant PR with six substitutions (I37V, N55M, V59I, I98P, Q99V, and P100N) was selected and placed in the context of full-length FIV-34TF10. This virus, termed YCL6, had low-level infectivity ex vivo, and after passage, progeny that exhibited a higher growth rate emerged. The residue at the position of one of the six mutations, I98P, further mutated on passage to either P98H or P98S. Both PRs were sensitive to the HIV-1 PR inhibitors lopinavir (LPV) and darunavir (DRV), as well as to the broad-based inhibitor TL-3, with 50% inhibitory concentrations (IC(50)) of 30 to 40 nM, consistent with ex vivo results obtained using mutant FIVs. The chimeras offer an infectivity system with which to screen compounds for potential as broad-based PR inhibitors, define structural parameters that dictate specificity, and investigate pathways for drug resistance development.