Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs) are an important class of antiviral drugs used to manage infections by human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS. Unfortunately, these drugs cause unwanted side effects, and the molecular basis of NRTI toxicity is not fully understood. Putative routes of NRTI toxicity include the inhibition of human nuclear and mitochondrial DNA polymerases. A strong correlation between mitochondrial toxicity and NRTI incorporation catalyzed by human mitochondrial DNA polymerase has been established both in vitro and in vivo. However, it remains to be determined whether NRTIs are substrates for the recently discovered human X- and Y-family DNA polymerases, which participate in DNA repair and DNA lesion bypass in vivo. Using pre-steady-state kinetic techniques, we measured the substrate specificity constants for human DNA polymerases β, λ, η, ι, κ, and Rev1 incorporating the active, 5'-phosphorylated forms of tenofovir, lamivudine, emtricitabine, and zidovudine. For the six enzymes, all of the drug analogs were incorporated less efficiently (40- to >110,000-fold) than the corresponding natural nucleotides, usually due to a weaker binding affinity and a slower rate of incorporation for the incoming nucleotide analog. In general, the 5'-triphosphate forms of lamivudine and zidovudine were better substrates than emtricitabine and tenofovir for the six human enzymes, although the substrate specificity profile depended on the DNA polymerase. Our kinetic results suggest NRTI insertion catalyzed by human X- and Y-family DNA polymerases is a potential mechanism of NRTI drug toxicity, and we have established a structure-function relationship for designing improved NRTIs.