Deoxycytidine and Deoxythymidine Treatment for Thymidine Kinase 2 Deficiency

Ann Neurol. 2017 May;81(5):641-652. doi: 10.1002/ana.24922. Epub 2017 May 4.


Objective: Thymidine kinase 2 (TK2), a critical enzyme in the mitochondrial pyrimidine salvage pathway, is essential for mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) maintenance. Mutations in the nuclear gene, TK2, cause TK2 deficiency, which manifests predominantly in children as myopathy with mtDNA depletion. Molecular bypass therapy with the TK2 products, deoxycytidine monophosphate (dCMP) and deoxythymidine monophosphate (dTMP), prolongs the life span of Tk2-deficient (Tk2-/- ) mice by 2- to 3-fold. Because we observed rapid catabolism of the deoxynucleoside monophosphates to deoxythymidine (dT) and deoxycytidine (dC), we hypothesized that: (1) deoxynucleosides might be the major active agents and (2) inhibition of deoxycytidine deamination might enhance dTMP+dCMP therapy.

Methods: To test these hypotheses, we assessed two therapies in Tk2-/- mice: (1) dT+dC and (2) coadministration of the deaminase inhibitor, tetrahydrouridine (THU), with dTMP+dCMP.

Results: We observed that dC+dT delayed disease onset, prolonged life span of Tk2-deficient mice and restored mtDNA copy number as well as respiratory chain enzyme activities and levels. In contrast, dCMP+dTMP+THU therapy decreased life span of Tk2-/- animals compared to dCMP+dTMP.

Interpretation: Our studies demonstrate that deoxynucleoside substrate enhancement is a novel therapy, which may ameliorate TK2 deficiency in patients. Ann Neurol 2017;81:641-652.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antimetabolites / administration & dosage
  • Antimetabolites / pharmacology*
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / drug effects
  • Deoxycytidine Monophosphate / administration & dosage
  • Deoxycytidine Monophosphate / pharmacology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Metabolism, Inborn Errors / drug therapy*
  • Metabolism, Inborn Errors / enzymology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Mitochondrial Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Mitochondrial Diseases / enzymology
  • Tetrahydrouridine / administration & dosage
  • Tetrahydrouridine / pharmacology*
  • Thymidine / administration & dosage
  • Thymidine / pharmacology*
  • Thymidine Kinase / deficiency*


  • Antimetabolites
  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • Deoxycytidine Monophosphate
  • Tetrahydrouridine
  • thymidine kinase 2
  • Thymidine Kinase
  • Thymidine