Useful For

  • Predicting potential for toxicity to thiopurine drugs (6-mercaptopurine, 6-thioguanine, and azathioprine)

Video Overview

Clinical Information

The thiopurine drugs are purine antimetabolites that are useful in the treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukemia, autoimmune disorders (e.g., Crohn disease, rheumatoid arthritis), and organ transplant recipients. The thiopurine drugs, 6-mercaptopurine (6-MP), 6-thioguanine (6-TG), and azathioprine (AZA) are prodrugs that require intracellular activation to 6-thioguanine nucleotides (6-TGN). This activation is catalyzed by multiple enzymes. The cytotoxic effects of thiopurine drugs are achieved mainly through incorporation of 6-TGN into DNA and RNA. The pathway that leads to synthesis of active cytotoxic 6-TGN is in competition with inactivation pathways catalyzed by thiopurine methyltransferase (TPMT). Evaluation of this pathway is important because the level of 6-TGN measured in red blood cells have been correlated with both thiopurine therapeutic efficacy and toxicity such as myelosuppression.

TPMT activity is inherited as a monogenic codominant trait, and variable TPMT activity is associated with TPMT genetic variants. The distribution of TPMT activity in red blood cells is trimodal in Caucasians, with approximately 0.3% of people having deficient (undetectable) TPMT activity, 11% low (intermediate) activity, and 89% normal TPMT activity. The allele for normal TPMT activity (wild-type) has been designated TPMT*1. Four TPMT alleles, comprised of a combination of 3 different single-nucleotide substitutions (SNP), account for the majority of inactivating alleles in some ethnicities, including Caucasians: TPMT*2TPMT*3ATPMT*3B, and TPMT*3C. Less frequently occurring TPMT alleles TPMT*4TPMT*5TPMT*8, and TPMT*12 also have been implicated as deficiency alleles. If no TPMT variant alleles are detected by this assay, the most likely genotype is that of TPMT*1/*1 although the presence of other rarer alleles cannot be excluded.

Nudix hydrolase (NUDT15) is thought to dephosphorylate the active metabolites of thiopurines, TGTP and TdGTP, which prevents their incorporation into DNA and decreases their cytotoxic effects. Genetic variants in NUDT15 that decrease this activity are strongly associated with thiopurine-related myelosuppression. NUDT deficiency is most common among East Asians (22.6%), followed by South Asians (13.6%), and Native American populations (12.5%-21.2%). Studies in other populations are ongoing. This test evaluates variants associated with NUDT15*2, NUDT15*3, NUDT15*4, and NUDT15 *5. If no NUDT15 variant alleles are detected by this assay, the most likely genotype is that of NUDT15*1/*1 although the presence of other rarer alleles cannot be excluded. Individuals with variants in both TPMT and NUDT15 have been identified and were significantly more sensitive to mercaptopurine than individuals with variants in only 1 gene. Integration of both TPMT and NUDT15 testing may allow for more accurate prediction of thiopurine-related toxicity risk to guide dosing, particularly among patients from diverse populations.

Specimen Information

Specimen Type

  • Varies

Specimen Required (submit only 1 of the following specimens)

Multiple genotype tests can be performed on a single specimen after a single extraction. See Multiple Genotype Test List in Special Instructions for a list of tests that can be ordered together.

Specimen Type: Whole blood
Container/Tube: Lavender top (EDTA)
Specimen Volume: 3 mL

Collection Instructions:
1. Invert several times to mix blood.
2. Send specimen in original tube.

Specimen Stability Information: Ambient (preferred)/Refrigerated

Specimen Type: Saliva
Patient Preparation: Patient should not eat, drink smoke, or chew gum 30 minutes prior to collection.
Supplies: DNA Saliva Collection Kit (T786)
Container/Tube: Saliva Swab Collection Kit (T786)
Specimen Volume: One swab
Collection Instructions: Collect and send specimen per kit instructions.
Specimen Stability Information: Ambient

Specimen Type: DNA
Container/Tube: 2 mL screw top tube
Specimen Volume: 100 mcL (microliters)

Collection Instructions:
1. The preferred volume is 100 mcL at a concentration of 50 ng/mcL.
2. Include concentration and volume on tube.

Specimen Stability Information: Frozen (preferred)/Ambient/Refrigerated

Performance Information

Day(s) and Time(s) Test Performed

  • Monday through Friday; 8 a.m.

Analytic Time

  • 1 day (not reported Saturday or Sunday)
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Mayo Medical Laboratories

This post was authored by the Marketing Team at Mayo Medical Laboratories.