6-Mercaptopurine (6-MP) and methylmercaptopurine ribonucleoside (Me-MPR) are purine anti-metabolites which are both metabolized to methylthio-IMP (Me-tIMP), a strong inhibitor of purine synthesis de novo. Me-MPR is converted directly into Me-tIMP by adenosine kinase. 6-MP is converted into tIMP, and thereafter it is methylated to Me-tIMP by thiopurine methyltransferase, an S-adenosylmethionine (S-Ado-Met)-dependent conversion. S-Ado-Met is formed from methionine and ATP by methionine adenosyltransferase, and is a universal methyl donor, involved in methylation of several macromolecules, e.g. DNA and RNA. Therefore, depletion of S-Ado-Met could result in an altered methylation state of these macromolecules, thereby affecting their functionality, leading to dysregulation of cellular processes and cytotoxicity. In this study the effects of 6-MP and Me-MPR on S-Ado-Met, S-adenosylhomocysteine (S-Ado-Hcy), homocysteine and methionine concentrations are determined. Both drugs cause a decrease in intracellular S-Ado-Met concentrations and an increase in S-Ado-Hcy and methionine concentrations in Molt F4 human malignant lymphoblasts. The effects of both 6-MP and Me-MPR can be ascribed to a decreased conversion of methionine into S-Ado-Met, due to the ATP depletion induced by the inhibition of purine synthesis de novo by Me-tIMP. Both 6-MP and Me-MPR thus affect the methylation state of the cells, and this may result in dysregulation of cellular processes and may be an additional mechanism of cytotoxicity for 6-MP and Me-MPR.

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