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TYPE: small molecule

GROUP: approved

An antimetabolite antineoplastic agent with immunosuppressant properties. It interferes with nucleic acid synthesis by inhibiting purine metabolism and is used, usually in combination with other drugs, in the treatment of or in remission maintenance programs for leukemia. [PubChem]


Antineoplastic Agents Antimetabolites Immunosuppressive Agents Nucleic Acid Synthesis Inhibitors Purine analogues Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic

ABSORPTION: Clinical studies have shown that the absorption of an oral dose of mercaptopurine in humans is incomplete and variable, averaging approximately 50% of the administered dose. The factors influencing absorption are unknown.

For remission induction and maintenance therapy of acute lymphatic leukemia.

Mercaptopurine is one of a large series of purine analogues which interfere with nucleic acid biosynthesis and has been found active against human leukemias. It is an analogue of the purine bases adenine and hypoxanthine. It is not known exactly which of any one or more of the biochemical effects of mercaptopurine and its metabolites are directly or predominantly responsible for cell death.

Mercaptopurine competes with hypoxanthine and guanine for the enzyme hypoxanthine-guanine phosphoribosyltransferase (HGPRTase) and is itself converted to thioinosinic acid (TIMP). This intracellular nucleotide inhibits several reactions involving inosinic acid (IMP), including the conversion of IMP to xanthylic acid (XMP) and the conversion of IMP to adenylic acid (AMP) via adenylosuccinate (SAMP). In addition, 6-methylthioinosinate (MTIMP) is formed by the methylation of TIMP. Both TIMP and MTIMP have been reported to inhibit glutamine-5-phosphoribosylpyrophosphate amidotransferase, the first enzyme unique to the de novo pathway for purine ribonucleotide synthesis. Experiments indicate that radiolabeled mercaptopurine may be recovered from the DNA in the form of deoxythioguanosine. Some mercaptopurine is converted to nucleotide derivatives of 6-thioguanine (6-TG) by the sequential actions of inosinate (IMP) dehydrogenase and xanthylate (XMP) aminase, converting TIMP to thioguanylic acid (TGMP).

Plasma protein binding averages 19% over the concentration range 10 to 50 µg/mL (a concentration only achieved by intravenous administration of mercaptopurine at doses exceeding 5 to 10 mg/kg).

Hepatic. Degradation primarily by xanthine oxidase. The catabolism of mercaptopurine and its metabolites is complex. In humans, after oral administration of 35S-6-mercaptopurine, urine contains intact mercaptopurine, thiouric acid (formed by direct oxidation by xanthine oxidase, probably via 6-mercapto-8-hydroxypurine), and a number of 6-methylated thiopurines. The methylthiopurines yield appreciable amounts of inorganic sulfate.

Signs and symptoms of overdosage may be immediate such as anorexia, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea; or delayed such as myelosuppression, liver dysfunction, and gastroenteritis. The oral LD50 of mercaptopurine was determined to be 480 mg/kg in the mouse and 425 mg/kg in the rat.

Humans and other mammals