Annals of clinical biochemistry

Reference intervals for thiopurine S-methyltransferase activity in red blood cells using 6-thioguanine as substrate and rapid non-extraction liquid chromatography.

PMID 15298742


Although widely used, thiopurine drugs have a narrow therapeutic index and treatment can result in life-threatening toxicity, the basis being pharmacogenetic variation in thiopurine metabolism by thiopurine S-methyltransferase (TPMT). We recently developed a modified phenotyping assay to determine TPMT activity in red blood cells. Here we describe improvements to the method and establish reference intervals in a large prospective study. A modified enzyme assay for TPMT activity is reported. It uses 6-thioguanine as substrate with heat treatment of the incubate to stop the reaction and precipitate protein prior to high-performance liquid chromatographic (HPLC) analysis. Measurement of the reaction product, 6-methylthioguanine (6-MTG), uses HPLC with fluorimetric detection. The assay shows excellent characteristics, with clear discrimination of patients who are deficient in TPMT activity (< 5 nmol 6-MTG per g Hb per h) from heterozygotes (5-24 nmol 6-MTG per g Hb per h) and patients with normal activity (>25 nmol 6-MTG per g Hb per h). A modified TPMT assay is described which is suited for routine analysis in a regional centre. The method overcomes the need for extraction and has speeded up the chromatographic determination of 6-MTG, enabling large numbers of samples to be analysed. A prospective study of 1000 individuals has established the distribution of TPMT activity using the assay.

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2-Amino-6-methylmercaptopurine, ≥95%