Mitochondrial toxicity in hearts of CD-1 mice following perinatal exposure to AZT, 3TC, or AZT/3TC in combination

Environ Mol Mutagen. 2007 Apr-May;48(3-4):190-200. doi: 10.1002/em.20191.


Antiretroviral therapies based on nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs), like zidovudine (3'-azido-3'-deoxythymidine; AZT) and lamivudine ((-)2',3'-dideoxy-3'-thiacytidine; 3TC), markedly reduce mother-to-child transmission of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). However, AZT induces damage in nuclear DNA of mice exposed in utero and postnatally, and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) damage has been observed in both human and mouse neonates following perinatal exposure to AZT and AZT/3TC in combination. To provide animal data modeling the NRTI-induced heart damage reported in human infants, we treated pregnant CD-1 mice throughout gestation and treated their pups by direct gavage from postnatal day (PND) 4 through PND 28 with daily doses of 150 mg/kg body weight (bw)/day AZT, 75 mg/kg bw/day 3TC, 125/62.5 mg/kg bw/day AZT/3TC, or the vehicle control. Half the pups were euthanized on PND 28; the remainder received no further dosing, and were euthanized at week 10. Heart tissue was collected, total DNA was extracted, and mtDNA copy number relative to nuclear DNA copy number, mtDNA damage, and mtDNA mutation assays were performed using PCR-based methods. Analyses revealed increases in mtDNA lesions in 4-week-old males and females treated with AZT or 3TC, but not in 10-week-old mice, suggesting that the damage resolved after treatment ceased. Interestingly, 10-week-old females treated with AZT/3TC had significant increases in mtDNA damage. Point mutations were elevated in 10-week-old females treated with AZT or AZT/3TC, but not 3TC; no increases in mutations were seen in either gender at 4 weeks of age. Our data suggest that AZT/3TC combination treatment produces greater mtDNA damage than either agent individually, and that female mice are more sensitive than males to AZT/3TC-induced mtDNA damage.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Anti-HIV Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anti-HIV Agents / toxicity*
  • DNA Damage*
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / analysis
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics
  • Drug Combinations
  • Female
  • Lamivudine / administration & dosage
  • Lamivudine / toxicity*
  • Male
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred Strains
  • Mitochondria, Heart / drug effects*
  • Mitochondria, Heart / metabolism
  • Mutation
  • Myocardium / enzymology
  • Pregnancy
  • Prostaglandin-Endoperoxide Synthases / metabolism
  • Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors / administration & dosage
  • Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors / toxicity*
  • Zidovudine / administration & dosage
  • Zidovudine / toxicity*


  • Anti-HIV Agents
  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • Drug Combinations
  • Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors
  • Lamivudine
  • Zidovudine
  • Prostaglandin-Endoperoxide Synthases