Zidovudine inhibits thymidine phosphorylation in the isolated perfused rat heart

Delia Susan-Resiga, Alice T. Bentley, Matthew D. Lynx, Darcy D. LaClair, Edward E. McKee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Zidovudine (AZT; 3′-azido-3′-deoxythymidine), a thymidine analog, has been a staple of highly active antiretroviral therapy. It is phosphorylated in the host to the triphosphate and functions by inhibiting the viral reverse transcriptase. However, long-term use of AZT is linked to various tissue toxicities, including cardiomyopathy. These toxicities are associated with mitochondrial DNA depletion, which is hypothesized to be caused by AZT triphosphate inhibition of mitochondrial DNA polymerase γ. In previous work with isolated heart mitochondria, we demonstrated that AZT phosphorylation beyond the monophosphate was not detected and that AZT itself was a potent inhibitor of thymidine phosphorylation. This suggests an alternative hypothesis in which depletion of the TTP pool may limit mitochondrial DNA replication. The present work extends these studies to the whole cell by investigating the metabolism of thymidine and AZT in the intact isolated perfused rat heart. [3H]thymidine is converted to [3H]TTP in a time- and concentration-dependent manner. The level of [3H]TMP is low, suggesting that the reaction catalyzed by thymidine kinase is the rate-limiting step in phosphorylation. [3H]AZT is converted in a time- and concentration-dependent manner to AZT monophosphate, the only phosphorylated product detected after 3 h of perfusion. Both compounds display negative cooperativity, similar to the observations with cloned and purified mitochondrial thymidine kinase 2. The presence of AZT in the perfusate inhibits the phosphorylation of [3H] thymidine with a 50% inhibitory concentration of 24 ± 4 μM. These data support the hypothesis that AZT-induced mitochondrial cardiotoxicity may be caused by a limiting pool of TTP that lowers mitochondrial DNA replication.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1142-1149
Number of pages8
JournalAntimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2007


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