Polycitone A, a novel and potent general inhibitor of retroviral reverse transcriptases and cellular DNA polymerases

Shoshana Loya, Amira Rudi, Yoel Kashman, Amnon Hizi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Polycitone A, an aromatic alkaloid isolated from the ascidian Polycitor sp. exhibits potent inhibitory capacity of both RNA- and DNA-directed DNA polymerases. The drug inhibits retroviral reverse transcriptase (RT) [i.e. of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV), murine leukaemia virus (MLV) and mouse mammary tumour virus (MMTV)] as efficiently as cellular DNA polymerases (i.e. of both DNA polymerases α and β and Escherichia coli DNA polymerase I). The mode and mechanism of inhibition of the DNA-polymerase activity associated with HIV-1 RT by polycitone A have been studied. The results suggest that the inhibitory capacity of the DNA polymerase activity is independent of the template-primer used. The RNase H function, on the other hand, is hardly affected by this inhibitor. Polycitone A has been shown to interfere with DNA primer extension as well as with the formation of the RT-DNA complex. Steady-state kinetic studies demonstrate that this inhibitor can be considered as an allosteric inhibitor of HIV-1 RT. The target site on the enzyme may be also spatially related to the substrate binding site, since this inhibitor behaves competitively with respect to dTTP with poly(rA)·oligo(dT) as template primer. Chemical transformations of the five phenol groups of polycitone A by methoxy groups have a determinant effect on the inhibitory potency. Thus, the pentamethoxy derivative which is devoid of all hydroxy moieties, loses significantly, by 40-fold, the ability to inhibit the DNA polymerase function. Furthermore, this analogue lacks the ability to inhibit DNA primer extension as well as the formation of the RT-DNA complex. Indeed, inhibition of the first step in DNA polymerization, the formation of the RT-DNA complex, and hence, of the overall process, could serve as a model for a universal inhibitor of the superfamily of DNA polymerases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-92
Number of pages8
JournalBiochemical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 15 Nov 1999


  • DNA binding
  • Polycitrin A
  • Reverse transcriptase inhibitor
  • Toxiusol


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