Simultaneous Quantification of Eleven Thiopurine Nucleotides by Liquid Chromatography-Tandem Mass Spectrometry Academic Article uri icon

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  • The prodrugs azathioprine and 6-mercaptopurine, which are well-established anticancer and immunosuppressive agents, are extensively metabolized by activating and inactivating enzymes. Whereas the 6-thioguanine nucleotides (TGN) are currently being considered as major active metabolites, methylthioinosine nucleotides seem to contribute to the cytotoxic effect as well. Thiopurine-related adverse drug reactions and thiopurine failure are frequent. Thus, therapeutic monitoring of TGN and methylthioinosine derivatives has been suggested to improve thiopurine therapy, however with limited success. To elucidate systematically underlying molecular mechanisms as potential explanation for interindividual variability of thiopurine response, we developed a novel highly specific and sensitive liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) method for simultaneous quantitation of eleven mono-, di-, and triphosphates of thioguanosine, methylthioinosine, methylthioguanosine, and thioinosine. Using stable isotope-labeled analogues as internal standards obtained by chemical synthesis, an intra- and interassay variability below 8% and an accuracy of 92% to 107% were achieved in spiked quality control samples with known standards. All eleven metabolites could be determined in red blood cells from patients with inflammatory bowel diseases and long-term azathioprine therapy. Thus, our novel method opens a new avenue for the understanding of the thiopurine metabolism by quantitation of all important thiopurine nucleotide metabolites in one run.


  • Hofmann, Ute
  • Heinkele, Georg
  • Angelberger, Sieglinde
  • Schaeffeler, Elke
  • Lichtenberger, Cornelia
  • Jaeger, Simon
  • Reinisch, Walter
  • Schwab, Matthias

publication date

  • February 7, 2012