Repurposing nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs) to slow aging

Ageing Res Rev. 2023 Dec:92:102132. doi: 10.1016/j.arr.2023.102132. Epub 2023 Nov 19.


Repurposing drugs already approved in the clinic to be used off-label as geroprotectors, compounds that combat mechanisms of aging, are a promising way to rapidly reduce age-related disease incidence in society. Several recent studies have found that a class of drugs-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs)-originally developed as treatments for cancers and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, could be repurposed to slow the aging process. Interestingly, these studies propose complementary mechanisms that target multiple hallmarks of aging. At the molecular level, NRTIs repress LINE-1 elements, reducing DNA damage, benefiting the hallmark of aging of 'Genomic Instability'. At the organellar level, NRTIs inhibit mitochondrial translation, activate ATF-4, suppress cytosolic translation, and extend lifespan in worms in a manner related to the 'Loss of Proteostasis' hallmark of aging. Meanwhile, at the cellular level, NRTIs inhibit the P2X7-mediated activation of the inflammasome, reducing inflammation and improving the hallmark of aging of 'Altered Intercellular Communication'. Future development of NRTIs for human aging health will need to balance out toxic side effects with the beneficial effects, which may occur in part through hormesis.

Keywords: Aging; Geroprotectors; Intervention; Mitohormesis; NRTIs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging
  • Drug Repositioning
  • HIV Infections* / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Nucleosides / pharmacology
  • Nucleosides / therapeutic use
  • Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors* / adverse effects


  • Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors
  • Nucleosides