Rationally designed synthetic inhibitors of retroviral proteases inhibit the processing of viral polyproteins in cultures of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1)-infected T lymphocytes and, as a result, inhibit the infectivity of HIV-1 for such cultures. The ability of HIV-1 protease inhibitors to suppress replication of the C-type retrovirus Rauscher murine leukemia virus (R-MuLV) and the HIV-related lentivirus simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) was examined in plaque reduction assays and syncytium reduction assays, respectively. Three of seven compounds examined blocked production of infectious R-MuLV, with 50% inhibitory concentrations of < or = 1 microM. Little or no cellular cytotoxicity was detectable at concentrations up to 100 microM. The same compounds which inhibited the infectivity of HIV-1 also produced activity against SIV and R-MuLV. Electron microscopic examination revealed the presence of many virions with atypical morphologies in cultures treated with the active compounds. Morphometric analysis demonstrated that the active compounds reduced the number of membrane-associated virus particles. These results demonstrate that synthetic peptide analog inhibitors of retroviral proteases significantly inhibit proteolytic processing of the gag polyproteins of R-MuLV and SIV and inhibit the replication of these retroviruses. These results are similar to those for inhibition of HIV-1 infectivity by these compounds, and thus, R-MuLV and SIV might be suitable models for the in vivo evaluation of the antiretroviral activities of these protease inhibitors.