1. The importance of intact adenosine deaminase (ADA) activity in the generation of superoxide anion by xanthine oxidase has been disputed in studies using human neutrophils or mouse macrophages. The latter demonstrated a positive correlation between ADA activity and superoxide production during phagocytosis. The immunodeficiency in inherited ADA deficiency was related to a defect in this process.

2. Since there is considerable interspecies variation in the tissue distribution of xanthine oxidase, the metabolism of [8-14C]deoxyadenosine (dAR), the toxic metabolite which accumulates in inherited ADA deficiency, was investigated in human peritoneal macrophages.

3. Evaluation of the distribution of radiolabel in both cell and medium demonstrated that human macrophages with intact ADA metabolize dAR under physiological conditions to deoxyinosine and hypoxanthine exclusively. The hypoxanthine is further metabolized within the cell to ATP and GTP, via IMP.

4. No xanthine or uric acid could be detected, confirming that in human macrophages xanthine oxidase activity is insignificant, as it is in most other human cells and tissues, except liver and intestinal mucosa. Thus production of superoxide radicals in such cells via this route would be impossible, and consequently unaffected either by ADA deficiency or the xanthine oxidase inhibitor allopurinol.

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