The hepatic metabolism of hypoxanthine was investigated by studying both the fate of labelled hypoxanthine, added at micromolar concentrations to isolated rat hepatocyte suspensions, and the kinetic properties of purified hypoxanthine/guanine phosphoribosyltransferase from rat liver. More than 80% of hypoxanthine was oxidized towards allantoin; less than 5% of the label was incorporated into the purine mononucleotides, and a similar proportion appeared transiently in inosine. The maximal velocity of oxidation (approx. 750nmol/min per g of cells) was in close agreement with the known activity of xanthine oxidase in liver extracts. In contrast, the maximal velocity of the incorporation of labelled hypoxanthine into mononucleotides reached only 30nmol/min per g of cells, compared with an activity of hypoxanthine/guanine phosphoribosyltransferase, measured at substrate concentrations analogous to those prevailing intracellularly, of 500nmol/min per g of cells. Hypoxanthine incorporation into the mononucleotides was decreased by allopurinol, anoxia and ethanol, despite inhibition of its oxidation under these conditions; it was increased by incubation of the cells in supraphysiological concentrations of Pi. Allopurinol and anoxia decreased the concentration of phosphoribosyl pyrophosphate inside the cells by respectively 40 and 60%, ethanol had no effect on the concentration of this metabolite and Pi increased its concentration up to 10-fold. The kinetic study of purified hypoxanthine/guanine phosphoribosyltransferase showed that a mixture of ATP, IMP, GMP and GTP, at the concentrations prevailing in the liver cell, decreased the V max. of the enzyme 6-fold, increased its Km for hypoxanthine from 1 to 4 microM and its Km for phosphoribosyl pyrophosphate from 2.5 to 25 microM. In the presence of 5 microM-hypoxanthine and 2.5 microM-phosphoribosyl pyrophosphate, the mixture of nucleotides inhibited the activity of purified hypoxanthine/guanine phosphoribosyltransferase by 95%. It is concluded that this inhibition results in a limited participation of hypoxanthine/guanine phosphoribosyltransferase in the control of the production of allantoin by the liver.

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