The role of non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs) in the therapy of HIV-1 infection

Antiviral Res. 1998 Jun;38(3):153-79. doi: 10.1016/s0166-3542(98)00025-4.


Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs) have, in addition to the nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs) and protease inhibitors (PIs), gained a definitive place in the treatment of HIV-1 infections. Starting from the HEPT and TIBO derivatives, more than 30 structurally different classes of compounds have been identified as NNRTIs, that is compounds that are specifically inhibitory to HIV-1 replication and targeted at the HIV-1 reverse transcriptase (RT). Two NNRTIs (nevirapine and delavirdine) have been formally licensed for clinical use and several others are in preclinical or clinical development [thiocarboxanilide UC-781, HEPT derivative MKC-442, quinoxaline HBY 097 and DMP 266 (efavirenz)]. The NNRTIs interact with a specific 'pocket' site of HIV-1 RT that is closely associated with, but distinct from, the NRTI binding site. NNRTIs are notorious for rapidly eliciting resistance due to mutations of the amino acids surrounding the NNRTI-binding site. However, the emergence of resistant HIV strains can be circumvented if the NNRTIs, alone or in combination, are used from the start at sufficiently high concentrations. In vitro, this procedure has proved to 'knock-out' virus replication and to prevent resistance from arising. In vivo, various triple-drug combinations of NNRTIs (nevirapine, delavirdine or efavirenz) with NRTIs (AZT, 3TC, ddI or d4T) and/or PIs (indinavir or nelfinavir) have been shown to afford a durable anti-HIV activity, as reflected by both a decrease in plasma HIV-1 RNA levels and increased CD4 T-lymphocyte counts.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alkynes
  • Anti-HIV Agents / pharmacology
  • Anti-HIV Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Benzoxazines
  • Cyclopropanes
  • Delavirdine / pharmacology
  • Delavirdine / therapeutic use
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • HIV Reverse Transcriptase / drug effects
  • HIV-1* / drug effects
  • HIV-1* / enzymology
  • HIV-1* / physiology
  • Humans
  • Nevirapine / pharmacology
  • Nevirapine / therapeutic use
  • Oxazines / pharmacology
  • Oxazines / therapeutic use
  • Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Virus Replication / drug effects


  • Alkynes
  • Anti-HIV Agents
  • Benzoxazines
  • Cyclopropanes
  • Oxazines
  • Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors
  • Nevirapine
  • Delavirdine
  • HIV Reverse Transcriptase
  • efavirenz