Nevirapine (NVP) is a non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI) used against HIV-1. Currently, NVP is the most widely used anti-HIV drug in developing countries, both in combination therapy and to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV. Despite its efficacy against HIV, NVP produces a variety of toxic responses, including hepatotoxicity and skin rash. It is also associated with increased incidences of hepatoneoplasias in rodents. In addition, epidemiological data suggest that NNRTI use is a risk factor for non-AIDS-defining cancers in HIV-positive patients. Current evidence supports the involvement of metabolic activation to reactive electrophiles in NVP toxicity. NVP metabolism includes oxidation to 12-hydroxy-NVP; subsequent Phase II sulfonation produces an electrophilic metabolite, 12-sulfoxy-NVP, capable of reacting with DNA to yield covalent adducts. Since 2’-deoxythymidine (dT) adducts from several alkylating agents are regarded as having significant mutagenic/carcinogenic potential, we investigated the formation of NVP-dT adducts under biomimetic conditions. Toward this goal, we initially prepared and characterized synthetic NVP-dT adduct standards using a palladium-mediated Buchwald-Hartwig coupling strategy. The synthetic standards enabled the identification, by LC-ESI-MS, of 12-(2'-deoxythymidin-N3-yl)-nevirapine (N3-NVP-dT) in the enzymatic hydrolysate of salmon testis DNA reacted with 12-mesyloxy-NVP, a synthetic surrogate for 12-sulfoxy-NVP. N3-NVP-dT, a potentially cytotoxic and mutagenic DNA lesion, was also the only dT-specific adduct detected upon reaction of dT with 12-mesyloxy-NVP. Our data suggest that N3-NVP-dT may be formed in vivo
and play a role in the hepatotoxicity and/or putative hepatocarcinogenicity of NVP.