Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) encodes a thymidine kinase (TK) that markedly differs from mammalian nucleoside kinases in terms of substrate specificity. It recognizes both pyrimidine 2'-deoxynucleosides and a variety of purine nucleoside analogs. Based on a computer modeling study and in an attempt to modify this specificity, an HSV-1 TK mutant enzyme containing an alanine-to-tyrosine mutation at amino acid position 167 was constructed. Compared with wild-type HSV-1 TK, the purified mutant HSV-1 TK(A167Y) enzyme was heavily compromised in phosphorylating pyrimidine nucleosides such as (E)-5-(2-bromovinyl)-2'-deoxyuridine and the natural substrate dThd, whereas its ability to phosphorylate the purine nucleoside analogs ganciclovir (GCV) and lobucavir was only reduced approximately 2-fold. Moreover, a markedly decreased competition of natural pyrimidine nucleosides (i.e., thymidine) with purine nucleoside analogs for phosphorylation by HSV-1 TK(A167Y) was observed. Human osteosarcoma cells transduced with the wild-type HSV-1 TK gene were extremely sensitive to the cytostatic effects of antiherpetic pyrimidine [i.e., (E)-5-(2-bromovinyl)-2'-deoxyuridine] and purine (i.e., GCV) nucleoside analogs. Transduction with the HSV-1 TK(A167Y) gene sensitized the osteosarcoma cells to a variety of purine nucleoside analogs, whereas there was no measurable cytostatic activity of pyrimidine nucleoside analogs. The unique properties of the A167Y mutant HSV-1 TK may give this enzyme a therapeutic advantage in an in vivo setting due to the markedly reduced dThd competition with GCV for phosphorylation by the HSV-1 TK.

Original publication




Journal article


Molecular pharmacology

Publication Date





1326 - 1332


Rega Institute for Medical Research, Laboratory of Virology and Chemotherapy, Leuven, Belgium.


Tumor Cells, Cultured, Humans, Herpesvirus 1, Human, Osteosarcoma, Bone Neoplasms, Ganciclovir, Thymidine Kinase, Alanine, Tyrosine, Purine Nucleosides, Pyrimidine Nucleosides, Antiviral Agents, Transduction, Genetic, Amino Acid Substitution, Cell Division, Phosphorylation, Point Mutation