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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Quaternary structures of recombinant, cellular, and serum forms of Thymidine Kinase 1 from dogs and humans

Sharif Hanan1, Kiran Kumar Jagarlamudi1, Wang Liya1*, He Ellen2 and Eriksson Staffan1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Anatomy, Physiology and Biochemistry, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, BMC, 575, Uppsala, S-751 23, Sweden

2 Sino-Swed Molecular Bio-Medicine Research Institute, High-Tech Industrial Park, Shenzhen, 518057, China

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BMC Biochemistry 2012, 13:12  doi:10.1186/1471-2091-13-12

Published: 28 June 2012



Thymidine kinase 1 (TK1) is a salvage enzyme involved in DNA precursor synthesis, and its expression is proliferation dependent. A serum form of TK1 has been used as a biomarker in human medicine for many years and more recently to monitor canine lymphoma. Canine TK1 has not been cloned and studied. Therefore, dog and human TK1 cDNA were cloned and expressed, and the recombinant enzymes characterized. The serum and cellular forms of canine and human TK1 were studied by size-exclusion chromatography and the level of TK1 protein was determined using polyclonal and monoclonal anti-TK1 antibodies.


Canine TK1 phosphorylated the thymidine (dThd) analog 3'-azido-thymidine (AZT) as efficiently as it did dThd, whereas AZT phosphorylation by human TK1 was less efficient than that of dThd. Dog TK1 was also more thermostable and pH tolerant than the human enzyme. Oligomeric forms were observed with both enzymes in addition to the tetrameric and dimeric forms. Cellular TK1 was predominantly seen in dimeric and tetrameric forms, in the case of both dog TK1 from MDCK cells and human TK1 from CEM cells. Active serum TK1 was found mainly in a high molecular weight form, and treatment with a reducing agent shifted the high molecular weight complex to lower molecular weight forms with reduced total activity. Western blot analysis demonstrated a polypeptide of 26‚ÄČkDa (dog) and 25‚ÄČkDa (human) for cellular and serum TK1. There was no direct correlation between serum TK1 activity and protein level. It appears that a substantial fraction of serum TK1 is not enzymatically active.


These results suggest that the serum TK1 protein differs from cellular or recombinant forms, is more active in high molecular weight complexes, and is sensitive to reducing agents. The results presented here provide important information for the future development and use of serum TK1 as a diagnostic biomarker in human and veterinary medicine.

Recombinant Thymidine Kinase 1; Canine; Human; AZT; Serum Thymidine Kinase 1