HPRT mutations in humans: biomarkers for mechanistic studies

Mutat Res. 2001 Oct;489(1):1-16. doi: 10.1016/s1383-5742(01)00064-3.


The X-chromosomal gene for hypoxanthine-guanine phosphoribosyltransferase (HPRT), first recognized through its human germinal mutations, quickly became a useful target for studies of somatic mutations in vitro and in vivo in humans and animals. In this role, HPRT serves as a simple reporter gene. The in vivo mutational studies have concentrated on peripheral blood lymphocytes, for obvious reasons. In vivo mutations in T cells are now used to monitor humans exposed to environmental mutagens with analyses of molecular mutational spectra serving as adjuncts for determining causation. Studies of the distributions of HPRT mutants among T cell receptor (TCR) gene-defined T cell clones in vivo have revealed an unexpected clonality, suggesting that HPRT mutations may be probes for fundamental cellular and biological processes. Use of HPRT in this way has allowed the analyses of V(D)J recombinase mediated mutations as markers of a mutational process with carcinogenic potential, the use of somatic mutations as surrogate markers for the in vivo T cell proliferation that underlies immunological processes, and the discovery and study of mutator phenotypes in non-malignant T cells. In this last application, the role of HPRT is related to its function, as well as to its utility as a reporter of mutation. Most recently, HPRT is finding use in studies of in vivo selection for in vivo mutations arising in either somatic or germinal cells.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers*
  • Cell Division
  • Clone Cells / enzymology
  • DNA Mutational Analysis
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Fibroblasts / enzymology
  • Genes, Reporter
  • Humans
  • Hypoxanthine Phosphoribosyltransferase / genetics*
  • Lesch-Nyhan Syndrome / enzymology
  • Lesch-Nyhan Syndrome / etiology
  • Mutagens / adverse effects
  • Mutation / genetics*
  • Phenotype
  • T-Lymphocytes / drug effects


  • Biomarkers
  • Mutagens
  • Hypoxanthine Phosphoribosyltransferase