To understand the mechanisms of antiviral drug resistance and to have a system to examine the cytotoxicity of herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) inhibitors that are thymidine kinase (TK)-dependent, we have constructed a plasmid pFTK1 by inserting a DNA fragment containing the TK gene of HSV-1 strain F into the eukaryotic expression vector pcDNA3.1/His A. TK-deficient 143B cells were transfected with this vector and neomycin-resistant cells were selected. Cell survival in HAT medium and TK activity of the cell lysates were examined to ascertain HSV-1 TK expression. A cell line expressing the viral TK gene, FTK143B (FTK), was established and used for characterization of two laboratory-derived TK-deficient drug-resistant HSV-1 mutants of strain F. The antiviral activities of several drugs, mostly nucleoside analogues, were compared in the Vero, 143B and FTK cell culture systems. We showed that both mutant viruses lost their resistance to acyclovir and to other HSV-1 TK-dependent compounds in FTK cells but not in Vero and 143B cells. Significantly increased cytotoxicity of ganciclovir and (E)-5-(2-bromovinyl)-2′-deoxyuridine was also observed in the FTK cells. This HSV-1 TK gene-transfected cell model is a useful tool to rapidly determine HSV-1 drug resistance at the viral TK level. © 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
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