, Volume 153, Issue 3, pp 495-505
Date: 15 Jan 2008

Substrate specificity and molecular modelling of the feline herpesvirus-1 thymidine kinase

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Feline herpesvirus-1 (FHV-1) causes a severe upper respiratory and ocular disease in cats. An effective antiviral compound is required for treating FHV-1 infections. The virus-encoded thymidine kinase (TK) is the molecular basis for selective activation of commonly used antiviral nucleoside analogue drugs, e.g. acyclovir (ACV), penciclovir (PCV) and ganciclovir (GCV). The substrate specificity of a recombinant FHV-1 TK, expressed in Escherichia coli, was studied. FHV-1 TK efficiently phosphorylated its natural substrate deoxythymidine. However, it exhibited relatively lower affinity for the guanosine analogue substrates. PCV was most efficiently phosphorylated, followed by GCV, with approximately twofold reduction in the phosphorylation rate. The lowest phosphorylation rate was recorded for ACV. To correlate these biochemical data with structural features of the FHV-1 TK, a three-dimensional (3D) model of this enzyme was constructed based on sequence homology with two other herpesviral TKs, encoded by equine herpesvirus-4 (EHV-4) and herpes simplex-1 (HSV-1). Mutational analysis of the amino acids forming the FHV-1 TK active site identified two residues (Y29 and F144) as being critical for the differential ability of this enzyme to phosphorylate nucleoside analogues. A double substitution of Y29H/F144Y resulted in a threefold increase in the ACV phosphorylation rate.