Endothelial mitochondrial senescence accelerates cardiovascular disease in antiretroviral-receiving HIV patients

Toxicol Lett. 2019 Dec 15:317:13-23. doi: 10.1016/j.toxlet.2019.09.018. Epub 2019 Sep 25.


Combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) has been hugely successful in reducing the mortality associated with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, resulting in a growing population of people living with HIV (PLWH). Since PLWH now have a longer life expectancy, chronic comorbidities have become the focus of the clinical management of HIV. For example, cardiovascular complications are now one of the most prevalent causes of death in PLWH. Numerous epidemiological studies show that antiretroviral treatment increases cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk and early onset of CVD in PLWH. Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs) are the backbone of cART, and two NRTIs are typically used in combination with one drug from another drug class, e.g., a fusion inhibitor. NRTIs are known to induce mitochondrial dysfunction, contributing to toxicity in numerous tissues, such as myopathy, lipoatrophy, neuropathy, and nephropathy. In in vitro studies, short-term NRTI treatment induces an endothelial dysfunction with an increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) production; long-term NRTI treatment decreases cell replication capacity, while increasing mtROS production and senescent cell accumulation. These findings suggest that a mitochondrial oxidative stress is involved in the pathogenesis of NRTI-induced endothelial dysfunction and premature senescence. Mitochondrial dysfunction, defined by a compromised mitochondrial quality control via biogenesis and mitophagy, has a causal role in premature endothelial senescence and can potentially initiate early cardiovascular disease (CVD) development in PLWH. In this review, we explore the hypothesis and present literature supporting that long-term NRTI treatment induces vascular dysfunction by interfering with endothelial mitochondrial homeostasis and provoking mitochondrial genomic instability, resulting in premature endothelial senescence.

Keywords: Cardiovascular disease; Endothelial; HIV; Mitochondria; Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-HIV Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anti-HIV Agents / adverse effects*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / metabolism
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / pathology
  • Cellular Senescence / drug effects*
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Endothelial Cells / drug effects*
  • Endothelial Cells / metabolism
  • Endothelial Cells / pathology
  • Energy Metabolism / drug effects
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • HIV Infections / metabolism
  • HIV Infections / pathology
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / drug effects*
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Mitochondria / pathology
  • Risk Assessment
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Time Factors


  • Anti-HIV Agents