LC-MS/MS Analysis of Erythrocyte Thiopurine Nucleotides and Their Association With Genetic Variants in Patients With Neuromyelitis Optica Spectrum Disorders Taking Azathioprine


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Abstract

Background:Azathioprine is a first-line drug in treating neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorders (NMOSD). To exhibit its bioactivity, azathioprine needs to be converted to thiopurine nucleotides (TPNs) including 6-thioguanine nucleotides (6-TGNs) and 6-methylmercaptopurine nucleotides (6-MMPNs) that are affected by genetic polymorphisms. This study aims to develop an LC-MS/MS method for the analysis of erythrocyte concentrations of TPNs and to evaluate their associations with variants of various genes (MTHFR, TPMT, HLA, SLC29A1, SLC28A2, SLC28A3, ABCB1, and ABCC4) in patients with NMOSD.Methods:Erythrocyte 6-TGNs and 6-MMPNs were converted to their free bases 6-thioguanine and 6-methylmercaptopurine derivative by 1-hour acid hydrolysis at 95°C. An LC-MS/MS method was developed, validated, and used to study 32 patients with NMOSD to determine these free bases. Genetic variants were identified by MassARRAY (Sequenom) and multiple SNaPshot techniques. The associations between genetic variants and the concentrations of TPNs or the 6-MMPNs:6-TGNs ratio were evaluated by PLINK software using linear regression.Results:Methanol and water were used for separation with a total run time of 6.5 minutes. The lowest limit of quantification was 0.1 μmol/L with an injection volume of 10 μL. rs10868138 (SLC28A3) was associated with a higher erythrocyte concentration of 6-TGNs (P = 0.031), whereas rs12378361 (SLC28A3) was associated with a lower erythrocyte concentration of 6-TGNs (P = 0.0067). rs507964 (SLC29A1) was significantly associated with a lower erythrocyte concentration of 6-MMPNs (P = 0.024) and a lower 6-MMPNs:6-TGNs ratio (P = 0.029).Conclusions:An LC-MS/MS method for the analysis of erythrocyte TPNs was developed, validated, and used to study 32 patients with NMOSD. SLC29A1 and SLC28A3 were associated with the erythrocyte concentrations of TPNs and 6-MMPNs:6-TGNs ratio. Further studies are needed to confirm these results.

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