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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Mechanisms of action of 6-thioguanine, 6-mercaptopurine, and 8-azaguanine.

The effects of 6-thioguanine on purine biosynthesis and cell viability have been examined in H.Ep. 2 cells grown in culture. Toxicity is not reversed by aminoimidazolecarboxamide, suggesting that inhibition of purine biosynthesis de novo is not the sole mechanism of toxicity. Also, 6-(methylmercapto)purine ribonucleoside, a potent inhibitor of purine biosynthesis de novo, produces more marked reductions in cellular pools of purines than does 6-thioguanine without killing cells. There is no apparent inhibition by 6-thioguanosine 5'-monophosphate of other enzymes leading to the synthesis of guanosine 5'-triphosphate as determined in whole cells by measurements of radioactive hypoxanthine or guanine incorporation. Inhibition of DNA synthesis by 1 mM thymidine protects cells from 6-mercaptopurine or 6-thioguanine but fails to protect cells from 8-azaguanine toxicity. On the other hand, inhibition of RNA synthesis by 6-azauridine plus deoxycytidine protects cells against 8-azaguanine but does not protect against 6-thioguanine or 6-mercaptopurine toxicity. In agreement with the in vitro data, arabinosylcytosine (a potent inhibitor of DNA synthesis) fails to protect mice against 8-azaguanine but has previously been shown to protect mice from 6-mercaptopurine or 6-thioguanine toxicity. The results support the hypotheses of others that incorporation into DNA (as 6-thioguanine nucleotide) is a mechanism of toxicity for these thiopurines, whereas 8-azaguanine is toxic due to its incorporation into RNA.[1]


  1. Mechanisms of action of 6-thioguanine, 6-mercaptopurine, and 8-azaguanine. Nelson, J.A., Carpenter, J.W., Rose, L.M., Adamson, D.J. Cancer Res. (1975) [Pubmed]
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