• hypoxanthine guanine phosphoribosyltransferase (HPRT);
  • thiopurine S-methyltransferase (TPMT);
  • 6-thioguanine nucleotides (6-TGNs);
  • thiopurine drug;
  • inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)



Thiopurine drugs are widely used in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The polymorphic enzyme thiopurine S-methyltransferase (TPMT) is of importance for thiopurine metabolism and adverse events occurrence. The role of other thiopurine-metabolizing enzymes is less well known. This study investigated the effects of TPMT and hypoxanthine guanine phosphoribosyltransferase (HPRT) activities on 6-thioguanine nucleotides (6-TGNs) concentrations and thiopurine-induced leukopenia in patients with IBD.


Clinical data and blood samples were collected from 120 IBD patients who were receiving azathioprine (AZA)/6-mercaptopurine (6-MP) therapy. Erythrocyte TPMT, HPRT activities and 6-TGNs concentrations were determined. HPRT activity and its correlation with TPMT activity, 6-TGNs level, and leukopenia were evaluated.


The HPRT activity of all patients ranged from 1.63–3.33 (2.31 ± 0.36) μmol/min per g Hb. HPRT activity was significantly higher in patients with leukopenia (27, 22.5%) than without (P < 0.001). A positive correlation between HPRT activity and 6-TGNs concentration was found in patients with leukopenia (r = 0.526, P = 0.005). Patients with HPRT activity > 2.70 μmol/min per g Hb could have an increased risk of developing leukopenia (odds ratio = 7.47, P < 0.001). No correlation was observed between TPMT activity and HPRT activity, 6-TGNs concentration, or leukopenia.


High levels of HPRT activity could be a predictor of leukopenia and unsafe 6-TGN concentrations in patients undergoing AZA/6-MP therapy. This could partly explain the therapeutic response or toxicity that could not be adequately explained by the polymorphisms of TPMT. (Inflamm Bowel Dis 2011;)