Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs) are employed in first line therapies for the treatment of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. They generally lack a 3′-hydroxyl group, and thus when incorporated into the nascent DNA they prevent further elongation. In this report we show that 4′-ethynyl-2-fluoro-2′- deoxyadenosine (EFdA), a nucleoside analog that retains a 3′-hydroxyl moiety, inhibited HIV-1 replication in activated peripheral blood mononuclear cells with an EC50 of 0.05 nM, a potency several orders of magnitude better than any of the current clinically used NRTIs. This exceptional antiviral activity stems in part from a mechanism of action that is different from approved NRTIs. Reverse transcriptase (RT) can use EFdA-5′-triphosphate (EFdA-TP) as a substrate more efficiently than the natural substrate, dATP. Importantly, despite the presence of a 3′-hydroxyl, the incorporated EFdA monophosphate (EFdA-MP) acted mainly as a de facto terminator of further RT-catalyzed DNA synthesis because of the difficulty of RT translocation on the nucleic acid primer possessing 3′-terminal EFdA-MP. EFdA-TP is thus a translocation-defective RT inhibitor (TDRTI). This diminished translocation kept the primer 3′-terminal EFdA-MP ideally located to undergo phosphorolytic excision. However, net phosphorolysis was not substantially increased, because of the apparently facile reincorporation of the newly excised EFdA-TP. Our molecular modeling studies suggest that the 4′-ethynyl fits into a hydrophobic pocket defined by RT residues Ala-114, Tyr-115, Phe-160, and Met-184 and the aliphatic chain of Asp-185. These interactions, which contribute to both enhanced RT utilization of EFdA-TP and difficulty in the translocation of 3′-terminal EFdA-MP primers, underlie the mechanism of action of this potent antiviral nucleoside.