Analysis of the thymidine kinase genes from acyclovir-resistant mutants of varicella-zoster virus isolated from patients with AIDS

C L Talarico, W C Phelps, K K Biron
Journal of Virology 1993, 67 (2): 1024-33
Patients with AIDS often experience recurrent infections with varicella-zoster virus (VZV) requiring repeated or prolonged treatment with acyclovir (ACV), which may lead to the development of ACV resistance. The ACV resistance of isolates recovered from such patients is associated with diminished VZV thymidine kinase (TK) function. We determined the nucleotide sequences of the TK genes of 12 ACV-resistant VZV strains purified from nine patients with AIDS. Five VZV strains contained nucleotide deletions in their TK genes, introducing a premature termination codon which is expected to result in the production of a truncated protein. No detectable full-length TK protein could be immunoprecipitated from extracts of cells infected with these virus strains. These TK-deficient strains were cross resistant to the TK-dependent antiviral agents ACV, 9-(4-hydroxy-3-hydroxymethylbutyl-yl)guanine (penciclovir), and 1-beta-D-arabinofuranosyl-E-5-(2-bromovinyl) uracil (BVaraU). The remaining seven strains each contained a nucleotide change that resulted in an amino acid substitution in the TK protein. These substitutions occurred throughout the TK protein, namely, in the ATP-binding site, the nucleoside-binding site, between the two binding sites, and at the carboxy terminus of the protein. We determined the effects of these mutations on the stability of TK protein expression in virus-infected cells and on the sensitivity of mutants to the TK-dependent antiviral agents ACV, BVaraU, and penciclovir.

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