Thymidine kinase 2 enzyme kinetics elucidate the mechanism of thymidine-induced mitochondrial DNA depletion

Biochemistry. 2014 Oct 7;53(39):6142-50. doi: 10.1021/bi5006877. Epub 2014 Sep 23.


Mitochondrial thymidine kinase 2 (TK2) is a nuclear gene-encoded protein, synthesized in the cytosol and subsequently translocated into the mitochondrial matrix, where it catalyzes the phosphorylation of thymidine (dT) and deoxycytidine (dC). The kinetics of dT phosphorylation exhibits negative cooperativity, but dC phosphorylation follows hyperbolic Michaelis-Menten kinetics. The two substrates compete with each other in that dT is a competitive inhibitor of dC phosphorylation, while dC acts as a noncompetitive inhibitor of dT phosphorylation. In addition, TK2 is feedback inhibited by dTTP and dCTP. TK2 also phosphorylates a number of pyrimidine nucleoside analogues used in antiviral and anticancer therapy and thus plays an important role in mitochondrial toxicities caused by nucleoside analogues. Deficiency in TK2 activity due to genetic alterations causes devastating mitochondrial diseases, which are characterized by mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) depletion or multiple deletions in the affected tissues. Severe TK2 deficiency is associated with early-onset fatal mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome, while less severe deficiencies result in late-onset phenotypes. In this review, studies of the enzyme kinetic behavior of TK2 enzyme variants are used to explain the mechanism of mtDNA depletion caused by TK2 mutations, thymidine overload due to thymidine phosphorylase deficiency, and mitochondrial toxicity caused by antiviral thymidine analogues.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / metabolism*
  • Deoxycytidine / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Mitochondrial Diseases / genetics
  • Mitochondrial Diseases / metabolism
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / genetics
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Mutation
  • Phosphorylation
  • Thymidine / metabolism*
  • Thymidine Kinase / genetics
  • Thymidine Kinase / metabolism*


  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • Mitochondrial Proteins
  • Deoxycytidine
  • thymidine kinase 2
  • Thymidine Kinase
  • Thymidine