Delivery of phosphonoformate prodrugs

  • Ian Walker

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


AIDS dementia complex is a common neurological syndrome thought to result from the invasion of the CNS by HIV. Phosphonoformate has anti-HIV activity but due to its charged nature is excluded from the CNS by the blood-brain barrier. Lipophilic triesters of phosphonoformate designed to improve transport properties are unsuitable prodrugs due to their rapid and complicated hydrolysis, involving competitive P-O and P-C bond cleavage. Diesters, though hydrolytically stable, are considered too polar to passively diffuse into the CNS. Hydrophilic drugs mimicking endogenous nutrients are known to be actively transported across the blood-brain barrier. In this thesis the possibility that diesters of phosphonoformate may be actively transported is investigated.
Triesters of phosphonoformate with labile aryl carboxyl esterrs were synthesised and their hydrolysis followed by 31P NMR spectroscopy. The triesters were found to undergo rapid hydrolysis via P-C bond cleavage to the phosphite. Phosphonoformate diesters designed to be analogues of actively transported -keto acids have been synthesised and fully characterised. Tyrosine-phosphonoformate and lipid-phosphonoformate conjugates have also been synthesised and characterised.
An in vitro model of the blood-brain barrier utilising confluent monolayers of porcine brain microvessel endothelial cells grown on a permeable support has been established. The presence of enzyme and antigen markers specific to the blood-brain barrier has been demonstrated for the endothelial cells and the diffusional properties of the model investigated with hydrophilic and lipophilic compounds. Active transport systems for -keto acids and large amino acids have been identified in the endothelial cell monolayers using 14C-pyruvate and 3H-L-tyrosine respectively. Temperature and concentration dependence of the two systems have been demonstrated and transport constants calculated. Competition with 14C-pyruvate transport was shown with other monocarboxylic acids including the anti-epileptic drug valproate. Stereospecificity was shown in that L-lactate inhibited pyruvate transport while D-lactate did not. Sodium
methyl methoxycarbonylphosphonate, a phosphonoformate diester was shown not to compete for 14C-pyruvate transport indicating that this compound has no affinity for the carrier. Competition with 3H-L-tyrosine transport was shown with other large amino acids, including the anti-Parkinsonian agent L-dopa. Stereospecificity was shown using L- and D-tyrosine and L- and D-dopa. The tyrosine-phosphonoformate conjugate, which was stable under the experimental conditions, was shown to compete with 3H-Ltyrosine transport indicating that it may be actively transported at the blood-brain barrier.
Thirty two triesters, diesters and monoesters of phosphonoformate, showed no activity in an anti-HIV screen above that attributable to hydrolysis to the parent compound.
Date of AwardDec 1992
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorSally Freeman (Supervisor)


  • phosphonoformate
  • prodrug
  • blood-brain barrier
  • active transport

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