1. Low ATP/ADP ratios have been reported consistently for nucleotide levels of mononuclear cells separated from peripheral blood by conventional techniques.
2. We have established that these low values (mean 2.3:1) were not due to cell damage or poor viability, but resulted from heavy platelet contamination, which is unavoidable when heparinized blood is used. The results reflect the low ATP/ADP ratios (mean 1.6:1) characteristic of platelets. Platelet-free extracts from defibrinated blood had very high ATP/ADP ratios (mean 17.4:1).
3. The initial finding of detectable amounts of deoxy-ATP and deoxy-GTP in mononuclear cells from children with two distinct inherited immunodeficiency disorders [adenosine deaminase (ADA) and purine nucleoside phosphorylase (PNP) deficiency respectively] many have been due to contamination by nucleated erythrocytes as well as platelets in non-defibrinated preparations.
4. Defibrination before nucleotide extraction of mononuclear cells from a patient with T-cell leukaemic/lymphoma treated with the ADA inhibitor deoxycoformycin enabled the demonstration of grossly raised deoxy-ATP levels relative to deoxy-ADP levels (ratio 16.1:1), associated with severe ATP depletion. This reciprocal relationship between ATP and dATP was found by us previously in the erythrocytes in inherited ADA deficiency.
5. These findings underline the importance of extracts uncontaminated by platelets, or nucleated erythrocytes, in the evaluation of lymphocyte nucleotide levels in inherited or acquired immunodeficiency syndromes.