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Hum Mol Genet. 1999 Feb;8(2):367-70.

Thiopurine methyltransferase alleles in British and Ghanaian populations.

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  • 1University of Aberdeen, Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, Institute of Medical Sciences, Foresterhill, Aberdeen AB25 2ZD, UK.


Thiopurine methyltransferase (TPMT) catalyses the S-methylation of thiopurine drugs such as 6-mercapto-purine, 6-thioguanine and azathioprine. TPMT activity is inherited as an autosomal co-dominant trait, and several mutations in the TPMT gene have been identified which correlate with a low activity phenotype. Although ethnic differences in TPMT activity have been described, population frequency analysis of TPMT alleles has not been well defined in different ethnic groups. The frequency of four allelic variants of the TPMT gene, TPMT*2, TPMT*3A, TPMT*3B and TPMT*3C were compared in British Caucasian (n = 199) and Ghanaian (n = 217) populations using PCR-RFLP and allele-specific PCR-based assays. TPMT*3C was found in 14.8% of Ghanaians (31 heterozygotes, one homozygote). The TPMT*2, TPMT*3A and TPMT*3B alleles were not detected in any of the Ghanaian samples analysed. In contrast, 10.1% of British subjects had variant alleles, consisting of TPMT*2 (n = 2), TPMT*3A (n = 17) and TPMT*3C (n = 1) alleles. The frequencies of mutant alleles in this study were 5.3 and 7.6% in British Caucasians and Ghanaians, respectively. Among Ghanaian tribes, Ewe subjects had a lower frequency of mutant alleles (5.9%) than Ga (13.2%) or Fanti (11.6%), although this did not reach statistical significance. This study provides the first analysis of TPMT mutant allele frequency in an African population and indicates that, unlike Caucasians, TPMT*3C is the most common allele in African subjects.

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