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The thymidine (dThd) kinase (TK) encoded by herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) is not only endowed with dThd kinase, but also with thymidylate (dTMP) kinase and 2'-deoxycytidine (dCyd) kinase (dCK) activity. HSV-1 TK also recognizes a variety of antiherpetic guanine nucleoside analogues such as acyclovir (ACV), ganciclovir (GCV), lobucavir (LBV), penciclovir (PCV), and others (i.e., A5021). Site-directed mutagenesis of the highly conserved Ala-167 to Tyr in HSV-1 TK completely abolished TK, dTMP-K, and dCK activity, but maintained ACV-, GCV-, LBV-, PCV-, and A5021-phosphorylating capacity. A variety of 5-substituted pyrimidine nucleoside substrates, but also a number of selective HSV-1 TK inhibitors structurally related to thymine lost significant binding affinity for the mutant enzyme and did not markedly compete with GCV phosphorylation by the mutant enzyme. These findings could be explained by computer-assisted modeling data that revealed steric hindrance of the pyrimidine ring in the HSV-1 TK active site by the large 4-hydroxybenzyl ring of 167-Tyr, while the positioning of the purine ring of guanine-based HIV-1 TK substrates in the active site was kept virtually unaltered. Surprisingly, the efficiency of conversion the antiherpetic 2'-deoxyguanosine analogues ACV, GCV, LBV, PCV, and A5021 to their phosphorylated forms by the A167Y mutant HSV-1 TK was far more pronounced than for the wild-type enzyme. Therefore, the single A167Y mutation converts the wild-type HSV-1 TK from a predominantly pyrimidine nucleos(t)ide kinase into a virtually exclusive purine (guanine) nucleoside analogue kinase.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





6517 - 6524


Rega Institute for Medical Research, K. U. Leuven, Minderbroedersstraat 10, B-3000 Leuven, Belgium.


Herpesvirus 1, Human, Phosphotransferases (Alcohol Group Acceptor), Thymidine Kinase, Alanine, Tyrosine, Purine Nucleosides, Pyrimidine Nucleosides, Purine Nucleotides, Antineoplastic Agents, Enzyme Inhibitors, Antiviral Agents, Amino Acid Substitution, Mutagenesis, Site-Directed, Substrate Specificity, Phosphorylation, Kinetics