5-fluorouracil in lethal mutagenesis of foot-and-mouth disease virus

Future Med Chem. 2009 Jun;1(3):529-39. doi: 10.4155/fmc.09.26.


5-fluorouracil (FU) is a pyrimidine analogue extensively used in cancer chemotherapy. FU can be metabolized into 5-fluorouridine-triphosphate, which can be used as substrate for viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerases. This results in the incorporation of mutations into viral RNA. Accumulation of mutations may lead to loss of virus infectivity, in a process known as lethal mutagenesis. RNA virus pathogens are particularly difficult to control because they are highly mutable, and mutants resistant to antiviral agents are readily selected. Here, we review the basic principles of lethal mutagenesis as an antiviral approach, and the participation of FU in its development. Recent studies with foot-and-mouth disease virus indicate that FU can act both as an inhibitor and as a mutagen during foot-and-mouth disease virus replication. This dual activity renders FU an adequate drug for lethal mutagenesis. We suggest that structural and biochemical studies can contribute to the lead to new design of base or nucleoside analogues targeted specifically to viral polymerases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antiviral Agents / chemistry*
  • Antiviral Agents / pharmacology
  • Fluorouracil / chemistry*
  • Fluorouracil / pharmacology
  • Foot-and-Mouth Disease Virus / drug effects*
  • Foot-and-Mouth Disease Virus / enzymology
  • Foot-and-Mouth Disease Virus / genetics
  • Mutagenesis
  • RNA Replicase / chemistry
  • RNA Replicase / metabolism
  • RNA, Viral / genetics
  • Virus Replication / drug effects


  • Antiviral Agents
  • RNA, Viral
  • RNA Replicase
  • Fluorouracil