Chemotherapy of varicella-zoster virus by a novel class of highly specific anti-VZV bicyclic pyrimidine nucleosides.

Abstract:

(E)-5-(2-bromovinyl)-2'-deoxyuridine (BVDU) is a potent inhibitor of herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and varicella-zoster virus (VZV). Its mechanism of action is based on a specific conversion to its 5'-mono- and 5'-diphosphate derivative by HSV-1- and VZV-encoded thymidine kinase, and after further conversion to its 5'-triphosphate derivative, inhibition of the viral DNA polymerase and eventual incorporation into the viral DNA. Recently, a new structural class of bicyclic pyrimidine nucleoside analogues (designated BCNAs) with highly specific and selective anti-VZV activity in cell culture has been discovered. The compounds need a long alkyl or alkylaryl side-chain at the base moiety for pronounced biological activity. This property makes these compounds highly lipophilic. They are also endowed with fluorescent properties when exposed to light with short UV wavelength. In striking contrast to BVDU, the members of this class of compounds are active only against VZV, but not against any other virus, including the closely related HSV-1, HSV-2 and cytomegalovirus. The most active compounds inhibit VZV replication at subnanomolar concentrations and are not toxic at high micromolar concentrations. The compounds lose their antiviral activity against thymidine kinase (TK)-deficient VZV strains, pointing to a pivotal role of the viral TK in their activation (phosphorylation). Kinetic studies with purified enzymes revealed that the compounds were recognized by VZV TK as a substrate, but not by HSV-1 TK, nor by cytosolic or mitochondrial TK. VZV TK is able to phosphorylate the test compounds not only to their corresponding 5'-mono- but also to their 5'-diphosphate derivatives. These data may readily explain and rationalize the anti-VZV selectivity of the BCNAs. There is no clear-cut correlation between the antiviral potency of the compounds and their affinity for VZV TK, pointing to a different structure/activity relationship of the eventual antiviral target of these compounds. The compounds are stable in solution and, in contrast to BVDU, not susceptible to degradation by thymidine phosphorylase. The bicyclic pyrimidine nucleoside analogues represent an entirely new class of highly specific anti-VZV compounds that should be further pursued for clinical development.

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