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Antiviral Res. 2010 Mar;85(3):470-81. doi: 10.1016/j.antiviral.2009.10.020. Epub 2009 Oct 31.

Evaluation of the role of three candidate human kinases in the conversion of the hepatitis C virus inhibitor 2'-C-methyl-cytidine to its 5'-monophosphate metabolite.

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  • 1Idenix Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 60 Hampshire Street, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA. <>


Nucleoside analogs are effective inhibitors of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) in the clinical setting. One such molecule, 2'-C-methyl-cytidine (2'-MeC), entered clinical development as NM283, a valine ester prodrug form of 2'-MeC possessing improved oral bioavailability. To be active against HCV, 2'-MeC must be converted to 2'-MeC triphosphate which inhibits NS5B, the HCV RNA-dependent RNA polymerase. Conversion of 2'-MeC to 2'-MeC monophosphate is the first step in 2'-MeC triphosphate production and is thought to be the rate-limiting step. Here we investigate which of three possible enzymes, deoxycytidine kinase (dCK), uridine-cytidine kinase 1 (UCK1), or uridine-cytidine kinase 2 (UCK2), mediate this first phosphorylation step. Purified recombinant enzymes UCK2 and dCK, but not UCK1, could phosphorylate 2'-MeC in vitro. However, siRNA knockdown experiments in three human cell lines (HeLa, Huh7 and HepG2) defined UCK2 and not dCK as the key kinase for the formation of 2'-MeC monophosphate in cultured human cells. These results underscore the importance of confirming enzymatic kinase data with appropriate cell-based assays. Finally, we present data suggesting that inefficient phosphorylation by UCK2 likely limits the antiviral activity of 2'-MeC against HCV. This paves the way for the use of a nucleotide prodrug approach to overcome this limitation.

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