Mercaptopurine (6-MP) competes with hypoxanthine and guanine for the enzyme HGPRTase and is itself converted to thioinosinic acid (TIMP).
- TIMP 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).
- Animal tumors that are resistant to mercaptopurine often have lost the ability to convert mercaptopurine to TIMP. However, it is clear that resistance to mercaptopurine may be acquired by other means as well, particularly in human leukemias.
- 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.
6-MP ribonucleotide inhibits purine nucleotide synthesis and metabolism by inhibiting an enzyme called Phosphoribosyl pyrophosphate amidotransferase (PRPP Amidotransferase). PRPP Amidotransferase is the rate limiting enzyme of purine synthesis. This alters the synthesis and function of RNA and DNA. Mercaptopurine interferes with nucleotide interconversion and glycoprotein synthesis.