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J Biol Chem. 2000 Sep 1;275(35):26727-31.

Incorporation of nucleoside analogs into nuclear or mitochondrial DNA is determined by the intracellular phosphorylation site.

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  • 1Division of Clinical Virology, Karolinska Institute, Huddinge University Hospital, S-141 86 Stockholm, Sweden.


Nucleoside analogs used in cancer chemotherapy and in treatment of virus infections are phosphorylated in cells by nucleoside and nucleotide kinases to their pharmacologically active form. The phosphorylated nucleoside analogs are incorporated into DNA and cause cell death or inhibit viral replication. Cellular DNA is replicated both in the nucleus and in the mitochondria, and nucleoside analogs may interfere with DNA replication in both these subcellular locations. In the present study we created a cell model system where nucleoside analogs were phosphorylated, and thereby pharmacologically activated, in either the nucleus, cytosol, or mitochondria of cancer cells. The system was based on the reconstitution of deoxycytidine kinase (dCK)-deficient Chinese hamster ovary cells with genetically engineered dCK targeted to the different subcellular compartments. The nucleoside analogs phosphorylated by dCK in the mitochondria were predominantly incorporated into mitochondrial DNA, whereas the nucleoside analogs phosphorylated in the nucleus or cytosol were incorporated into nuclear DNA. We further show that the nucleoside analogs phosphorylated in the mitochondria induced cell death by an apoptotic program. These data showed that the subcellular site of nucleoside analog phosphorylation is an important determinant for incorporation of nucleoside analogs into nuclear or mitochondrial DNA.

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