Ten novel ester prodrugs of zidovudine (azidothymidine; AZT) were synthesized with aliphatic acids (acetic-stearic), and the enzymatic regeneration of AZT from the prodrugs was investigated both in vitro and in vivo. The enzymatic hydrolysis rates of the AZT esters in the presence of mouse enzyme systems (plasma, liver, and intestine, and kidney) were highly dependent on the lengths of the acyl chains of the prodrugs. The caprate or caprylate of AZT showed the highest reactivity to three of the four enzyme systems; either the decrease or the increase in the acyl chain length resulted in the decrease of the reactivity to the enzymes. Zidovudine (AZT) and three of the prodrugs (acetate, caprate, and stearate) were administered to mice intraperitoneally, and the plasma concentrations of AZT and a corresponding prodrug were measured. The AZT concentrations in plasma following the acetate administration rapidly decreased with a half-life of 14.5 min. This tendency is similar to that shown in direct AZT administration. On the other hand, the concentrations following the caprate or stearate administration decreased slowly and were maintained for as long as 4 h after dosing. The prodrug concentrations in plasma after the prodrug administration were under the detection limit (0.01 micrograms/mL), except for acetate. The absence of the caprate and stearate in plasma may be attributed to the high hydrophobicity or favorable tissue distribution of the ester derivatives.