Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs) are mainstay therapeutics for HIV that block retrovirus replication. Alu (an endogenous retroelement that also requires reverse transcriptase for its life cycle)-derived RNAs activate P2X7 and the NLRP3 inflammasome to cause cell death of the retinal pigment epithelium in geographic atrophy, a type of age-related macular degeneration.We found that NRTIs inhibit P2X7-mediated NLRP3 inflammasome activation independent of reverse transcriptase inhibition. Multiple approved and clinically relevant NRTIs prevented caspase-1 activation, the effector of the NLRP3 inflammasome, induced by Alu RNA. NRTIs were efficacious in mouse models of geographic atrophy, choroidal neovascularization, graft-versus-host disease, and sterile liver inflammation. Our findings suggest that NRTIs are ripe for drug repurposing in P2X7-driven diseases.
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