Molecular insights into NRTI inhibition and mitochondrial toxicity revealed from a structural model of the human mitochondrial DNA polymerase

Mitochondrion. 2004 Jul;4(2-3):203-13. doi: 10.1016/j.mito.2004.05.018.


NRTI-based therapy used to treat AIDS can cause mitochondrial toxicity resulting from the incorporation of NRTIs into mitochondrial DNA by DNA polymerase gamma (pol gamma). Pol gamma has poor discrimination against many of the currently used NRTIs resulting in aborted DNA synthesis and subsequent depletion of mtDNA. Pol gamma readily incorporates ddCTP, ddITP and D4T-TP with an efficiency similar to the incorporation of normal nucleotides, whereas AZT-TP, CBV-TP, 3TC-TP and PMPApp act as moderate inhibitors to DNA synthesis. We have sought a structural explanation for the unique selection for NRTIs by the human pol gamma. A structural model of the human pol gamma was developed to ascertain the role of active site amino acids. One residue in particular, Y951 in motif B, is primarily responsible for the selection of dideoxynucleotides and D4T-TP. Our structural model of the human pol gamma should assist in rational design of antiviral nucleoside analogs with higher specificity for HIV-RT and minimal selection and incorporation into mitochondrial DNA.