The compounds WHI-05 (5-bromo-6-methoxy-5,6-dihydro-3′-azidothymidine-5′-[p-methoxyphenyl] methoxyalaninyl phosphate) and WHI-07 (5-bromo-6-methoxy-5,6-dihydro-3′-azidothymidine-5′-[p-bromophenyl] methoxyalaninyl phosphate) are aryl phosphate derivatives of zidovudine (ZDV) with dual-function anti-human immunodeficiency virus and contraceptive activity. These drugs were rationally designed to bypass the thymidine kinase (TK) dependency of ZDV activation as well as to achieve spermicidal activity. We investigated the TK activity and intracellular metabolism of WHI-05 and WHI-07 in normal human vaginal and cervical epithelial cells as well as sperm. The time- and concentration-dependent intracellular formation of ZDV metabolites following addition of WHI-05 and WHI-07 to normal human vaginal, ectocervical, and endocervical epithelial cells as well as motile sperm was studied by analytical HPLC. Thymidine kinase activity in these cells was determined by the flow cytometric method based on intracellular phosphorylation of the fluorescent nucleoside, 5-amino-2-deoxyuridine-dansyl chloride and by the ability of cell-free extracts to convert [3H]thymidine to thymidine monophosphate in comparison to NALM-6, a pre-B leukemia cell line. TK activity of genital tract epithelial cells and sperm was found to be relatively low or lacking. Addition of WHI-05 and WHI-07 to vaginal and cervical epithelial cells resulted in their concentration- and time-dependent conversion to alaninyl ZDV monophosphate (Ala-ZDV-MP) and 5′-ZDV monophosphate as the major metabolites. Studies using motile human sperm also demonstrated the conversion of WHI-05 and WHI-07 to Ala-ZDV-MP. These results demonstrate that human female genital tract epithelial cells and sperm efficiently convert WHI-05 and WHI-07 to bioactive ZDV metabolites despite their TK deficiency.
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