The nucleoside analog azacitidine (AZA) is used in the treatment of myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), but 30-40% of patients fail to respond or relapse after treatment. Hence, to identify new molecular alterations that allow for identification of patients unlikely to respond to AZA could impact the utility of this therapy. We determined the expression levels of genes involved in AZA metabolism: UCK1, UCK2, DCK, hENT1, RRM1 and RRM2 using quantitative PCR in samples from 57 patients with MDS who received AZA. Lower expression of UCK1 was seen in patients without a response to AZA (median 0.2 vs 0.49 for patients with response to AZA, P=0.07). This difference in UCK1 expression was not influenced by aberrant methylation of the UCK1 promoter. In addition, the seven polymorphic loci found in the coding sequence were not associated with UCK1 gene expression nor AZA response. Silencing of UCK1 by siRNA leads to blunted response to AZA in vitro. The univariate analysis revealed that patients expressing lower than median levels of UCK1 had a shorter overall survival (P=0.049). Our results suggest that expression level of UCK1 is correlated with clinical outcome and may influence the clinical response to AZA treatment in patients with MDS.Leukemia advance online publication, 13 December 2013; doi:10.1038/leu.2013.330.