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J Chromatogr B Biomed Appl. 1994 Nov 4;661(1):25-33.

High-performance liquid chromatographic assay of human red blood cell thiopurine methyltransferase activity.

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Department of Medicine and Pharmacology, Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield, UK.


An assay is described for the determination of red blood cell (RBC) thiopurine methyltransferase (TPMT) activity. TPMT S-methylates the antileukaemic drugs 6-mercaptopurine (6-MP) and 6-thioguanine and enzyme activity is inherited as a genetic trait. The assay is based on the TPMT-catalysed conversion of 6-MP to 6-methylmercaptopurine (methyl-MP) with non-radioactive S-adenosyl-L-methionine as the methyl donor. The methyl-MP metabolite is extracted into toluene as a phenyl-mercury adduct and back-extracted into 0.1 M HCl. Methyl-MP is quantitated by reversed-phase high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) with ultraviolet detection using a C18 Resolve cartridge and a mobile phase of methanol-water (20:80, v/v) with 100 mM triethylamine adjusted to pH 3.2 with orthophosphoric acid. There was a strong correlation between the HPLC assay and the established radiochemical assay (P < 0.0001). TPMT activities were measured by both methods in a population study of 111 children. There was no significant difference between the two frequency distribution histograms (P > 0.6).

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