Drug resistance of herpes simplex virus type 1--structural considerations at the molecular level of the thymidine kinase

Eur J Biochem. 1998 Jul 15;255(2):472-81. doi: 10.1046/j.1432-1327.1998.2550472.x.


Several drug-resistant strains of herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV1) isolated in vivo or from tissue culture, have exhibited a mutated thymidine kinase (TK). Moreover, various site-directed-mutagenesis experiments conducted on HSV1 TK allowed the assignment of specific amino acid residues to specific functional properties. From this, a range of hypotheses was generated related to substrate binding of TK at the molecular level. A site-directed-mutagenesis study on Q125 was performed to clarify the contribution of this residue to the binding of thymidine or aciclovir beyond the hydrogen-bonding pattern observed in the crystal structure. While Q125L is only able to phosphorylate thymidine, Q125N accepts thymidine and aciclovir as substrates. Q125E shows no phosphorylation activity. Several mutations identified previously as relevant in drug resistance were studied in an attempt to further understand their role in these processes. Four amino acid positions are described (T63, A168, R176 and C336) that confer drug resistance when mutated; however, the molecular mechanisms are considerably different in each case. Analysis of the crystal structures and the molecular modeling presented in this paper suggest that T63 is essential for the binding of Mg2+ and thus the catalytic activity of the enzyme, while A168 limits steric accessibility and if mutated to a bulkier residue will exclude binding of larger substrate analogues. R176 appears to be essential for electrostatic balance within the active site, and C336, which is located at the surface of TK and directed toward the ATP-binding site, disrupts the three-dimensional structure of the whole active site by shifting the LID-domain. The present work contributes to a detailed understanding of nucleoside binding to TK, thereby facilitating the rational design of substrates for HSV1 TK and of drug-specific TK for gene therapy.

MeSH terms

  • Acyclovir / metabolism*
  • Acyclovir / pharmacology
  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Amino Acid Substitution
  • Antiviral Agents / metabolism*
  • Antiviral Agents / pharmacology
  • Binding Sites
  • Calorimetry
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • Dimerization
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial*
  • Escherichia coli
  • Herpesvirus 1, Human / drug effects
  • Herpesvirus 1, Human / enzymology*
  • Kinetics
  • Macromolecular Substances
  • Models, Molecular
  • Mutagenesis, Site-Directed
  • Point Mutation
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Protein Conformation*
  • Recombinant Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Recombinant Proteins / chemistry
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism
  • Thymidine Kinase / biosynthesis
  • Thymidine Kinase / chemistry*
  • Thymidine Kinase / metabolism*
  • Thymidine Monophosphate / metabolism


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Macromolecular Substances
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Thymidine Monophosphate
  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • Thymidine Kinase
  • Acyclovir