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Intracellular Metabolism of Nucleoside/Nucleotide Analogues: a Bottleneck to Reach Active Drugs on HIV Reverse Transcriptase

[ Vol. 17 , Issue. 3 ]


Andrea Varga, Corinne Lionne and Béatrice Roy   Pages 237 - 252 ( 16 )


Background: To date, the most effective way to treat HIV is to use a highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) that combines three or more different drugs. The usual regimen consists of two nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors and either a protease inhibitor, a non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor, or an integrase strand transfer inhibitor. Due to the emerging resistance against the nucleoside analogues in use, there is a continuous need for the development of such therapeutic molecules with different structural features.

Objectives: In this review, we would like to summarize the state of knowledge of the antiretroviral nucleoside analogues intracellular metabolism. Indeed, these molecules have to be phosphorylated in the cell, a process that is often a bottleneck, to produce their pharmacologically active triphosphorylated forms. These forms can be used by the HIV reverse transcriptase. Because they lack a 3'-hydroxyl group, they block further extension of the viral DNA, and finally lead to early chain termination. Several kinases can act on the phosphorylation of these drugs; most of them have low nucleoside/nucleotide specificity. On the other hand, there are also nucleotidases in the cell, which can reverse the phosphorylation process, thus shifting the equilibrium from the active triphosphorylated state to the non-active (not-, mono- or di-phosphorylated) states of these analogues.

Conclusion: Here, we would like to bring to the attention of the medicinal chemists that they have to take into account the limitation of the intracellular phosphorylation machinery when designing new nucleoside analogue drugs.


HIV, nucleoside/nucleotide analogues, nucleoside/nucleotide kinase, nucleotidase, phosphorylation, reverse transcriptase.


Institute of Enzymology, Research Centre for Natural Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, P.O. Box: 286, H-1519, Budapest, Hungary

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