Selective assays for thymidine kinase 1 and 2 and deoxycytidine kinase and their activities in extracts from human cells and tissues

Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 1992 Oct 30;188(2):712-8. doi: 10.1016/0006-291x(92)91114-6.


Human cells salvage pyrimidine deoxyribonucleosides via 5'-phosphorylation which is also the route of activation of many chemotherapeutically used nucleoside analogs. Key enzymes in this metabolism are the cytosolic thymidine kinase (TK1), the mitochondrial thymidine kinase (TK2) and the cytosolic deoxycytidine kinase (dCK). These enzymes are expressed differently in different tissues and cell cycle phases, and they display overlapping substrate specificities. Thymidine is phosphorylated by both thymidine kinases, and deoxycytidine is phosphorylated by both dCK and TK2. The enzymes also phosphorylate nucleoside analogs with very different efficiencies. Here we present specific radiochemical assays for the three kinase activities utilizing analogs as substrates that are by more than 90 percent phosphorylated solely by one of the kinases; i.e. 3'-azido-2',3'-dideoxythymidine (AZT) as substrate for TK1, 1-beta-D-arabinofuranosylthymidine (AraT) for TK2 and 2-chlorodeoxyadenosine (CdA) for dCK. We determined the fraction of the total deoxycytidine and thymidine phosphorylating activity that was provided by each of the three enzymes in different human cells and tissues, such as resting and proliferating lymphocytes, lymphocytic cells of leukemia patients (chronic lymphocytic, chronic myeloic and hairy cell leukemia), muscle, brain and gastrointestinal tissue. The detailed knowledge of the pyrimidine deoxyribonucleoside kinase activities and substrate specificities are of importance for studies on chemotherapeutically active nucleoside analogs, and the assays and data presented here should be valuable tools in that research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arabinonucleosides / metabolism
  • Cladribine / metabolism
  • Deoxycytidine / metabolism
  • Deoxycytidine Kinase / analysis*
  • Deoxycytidine Kinase / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Isoenzymes / analysis*
  • Isoenzymes / metabolism
  • Kinetics
  • Leukemia
  • Leukocytes / enzymology*
  • Mitochondria / enzymology
  • Organ Specificity
  • Phosphorylation
  • Radioisotope Dilution Technique
  • Reference Values
  • Substrate Specificity
  • Thymidine / analogs & derivatives
  • Thymidine / metabolism
  • Thymidine Kinase / analysis*
  • Thymidine Kinase / metabolism
  • Tritium
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Zidovudine / metabolism


  • Arabinonucleosides
  • Isoenzymes
  • Deoxycytidine
  • Tritium
  • Cladribine
  • Zidovudine
  • Thymidine Kinase
  • Deoxycytidine Kinase
  • thymine arabinoside
  • Thymidine