Concentrations of phosphorylated zidovudine (ZDV) in patient leukocytes do not correlate with ZDV dose or plasma concentrations

Ther Drug Monit. 1991 Jul;13(4):325-31. doi: 10.1097/00007691-199107000-00008.


Zidovudine (ZDV) elicits its antiviral effect through intracellular metabolism to the 5'-triphosphate, which interferes with viral replication. Monitoring of the active metabolites of ZDV in cells could lead to an intracellular therapeutic range. This study was performed to determine whether a radioimmunoassay, previously used for in vitro quantitation of total phosphorylated ZDV inside peripheral blood leukocytes, could be used for similar determinations in patient samples. The relationship between ZDV dose, plasma concentrations, and intracellular metabolite concentrations was also examined. Ten-milliliter blood samples were drawn from each of 13 human immunodeficiency virus-infected patients and were assayed. Intracellular concentrations of phosphorylated ZDV ranged from 0.33 to 3.54 pmol/10(6) cells, similar to those observed in vitro. Phosphorylated ZDV was independent of dose, and did not correlate with plasma concentrations. Intracellular concentration in the patient population as a whole did not change during the 4-h dosing interval, while plasma concentration decayed normally. Later determinations in the same patients gave intracellular values within 31% of earlier values. Intraassay variability was less than 10%. Thus, the method is valid for measurement of phosphorylated ZDV in patient cells. Although individual concentrations showed no clear change during the 3-month study period, intracellular concentrations decreased with increasing length of therapy (up to 3 years) in the population as a whole. This suggests a decreased cellular ability to phosphorylate ZDV after prolonged exposure to drug. The lack of intracellular decay implies a half-life longer than the 1-h half-life of plasma ZDV. These data suggest that smaller doses or longer dosing intervals might maintain intracellular concentrations once steady state is achieved.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Adult
  • HIV Infections / blood
  • HIV Infections / metabolism
  • Half-Life
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Phosphorylation
  • Radioimmunoassay / methods
  • Zidovudine / administration & dosage
  • Zidovudine / blood
  • Zidovudine / metabolism*


  • Zidovudine