Author(s): Eklund BI, Moberg M, Bergquist J, Mannervik B
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Abstract Azathioprine is a thiopurine prodrug clinically used for immunosuppression in the treatment of inflammatory diseases and in pharmacological regimens of organ transplantations. Its pharmacological action is based on the release of 6-mercaptopurine, but the biochemical processes underlying this biotransformation have remained obscure. In this investigation, human glutathione transferases (GSTs) from seven distinct classes were assayed with azathioprine. GSTs A1-1, A2-2, and M1-1, all abundantly expressed in human liver, displayed the highest activity among the 14 GSTs tested. The uncatalyzed reaction of azathioprine with glutathione was estimated to be less than 1\% of the GST-catalyzed biotransformation. GST M1-1 is polymorphic with a frequently occurring null allele, and GSTs A1-1 and A2-2 show variable expression levels in human subjects, implying significant differences in the rate of 6-mercaptopurine release from azathioprine. Individuals expressing high GST activity are apparently predisposed for adverse reactions to azathioprine treatment, both by promoting excessively high concentrations of free 6-mercaptopurine and its toxic metabolites and by depleting cellular glutathione. These novel aspects of GST-dependent azathioprine biotransformation have not been considered previously.
This article was published in Mol Pharmacol
and referenced in Journal of Pharmacological Reports