Altered substrate specificity of herpes simplex virus thymidine kinase confers acyclovir-resistance

Nature. 1981 Jan 1;289(5793):81-3. doi: 10.1038/289081a0.


Acyclovir (9-[2-hydroxyethoxymethyl]guanine or ACV) is a nucleoside analogue with considerable potential for the treatment of herpes simplex virus (HSV) infections in man. Two virus-coded enzymes are important in the mechanism of action of this drug: thymidine kinase (TK) which initiates its activation by converting it to the monophosphate and DNA polymerase whose action is inhibited by ACV triphosphate. Changes in either gene may confer resistance, but all reported mutations in the TK gene have resulted in failure of the resistant virus to induce appreciable levels of the enzyme. Such TK- mutants arise readily in tissue culture systems where the enzyme is non-essential for virus replication, but in animals they show considerably reduced pathogenicity and neurovirulence. We now describe the isolation of a resistant mutant which induces a TK of altered substrate specificity and we show that this virus retains pathogenicity for mice with only a slight attenuation of neurovirulence.

MeSH terms

  • Acyclovir
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial
  • Genes, Viral
  • Guanine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Guanine / pharmacology
  • Simplexvirus / drug effects*
  • Simplexvirus / enzymology
  • Simplexvirus / genetics
  • Substrate Specificity
  • Thymidine Kinase / genetics
  • Thymidine Kinase / metabolism*


  • Guanine
  • Thymidine Kinase
  • Acyclovir