The K65R reverse transcriptase mutation in HIV-1 reverses the excision phenotype of zidovudine resistance mutations

Antivir Ther. 2006;11(2):155-63. doi: 10.1177/135965350601100209.


The HIV-1 nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs) tenofovir (TFV), abacavir, didanosine and stavudine can select for K65R, whereas zidovudine (AZT) and stavudine can select for thymidine analogue mutations (TAMs) in HIV-1 reverse transcriptase (RT). HIV-1 with TAMs shows reduced susceptibility to all NRTIs, most notably AZT, whereas HIV-1 with K65R shows reduced susceptibility to all NRTIs except AZT. K65R and TAMs rarely occur together in patients. However, when present together, K65R can restore susceptibility to AZT. This study characterizes the underlying mechanisms of resistance of these RT mutants to TFV and AZT. K65R mediated decreased binding/incorporation of TFV and AZT (increased Ki/Km of 7.1- and 4.3-fold, respectively), but also decreased excision of TFV and AZT (0.7- and 0.3-fold, respectively) when compared with wild-type RT. By contrast, TAMs mediated increased TFV and AZT excision (11- and 5.4-fold, respectively), and showed no changes in binding/incorporation. When these mutations were combined, K65R reversed TAM-mediated AZT resistance by strongly reducing AZT excision. Molecular modelling studies suggest that K65R creates additional hydrogen bonds that reduce the conformational mobility of RT, resulting in reduced polymerization and excision. Thus, consistent with clinical HIV-1 genotyping data, there appears to be no net NRTI resistance benefit for TAMs and K65R to develop together in patients taking AZT and TFV disoproxil fumarate, where the TAM pathway alone provides the greatest resistance for both drugs.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line
  • Drug Resistance, Viral / genetics*
  • HIV Reverse Transcriptase / genetics*
  • HIV-1 / drug effects*
  • HIV-1 / enzymology*
  • HIV-1 / genetics
  • Humans
  • Models, Molecular
  • Mutation / genetics*
  • Phenotype
  • Protein Binding
  • Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Zidovudine / pharmacology*


  • Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors
  • Zidovudine
  • HIV Reverse Transcriptase