Pharmacogenetics of thiopurine S-methyltransferase and thiopurine therapy

Ther Drug Monit. 2004 Apr;26(2):186-91. doi: 10.1097/00007691-200404000-00018.


Most medications exhibit wide interpatient variability in their efficacy and toxicity. For many medications, these interindividual differences result in part from polymorphisms in genes encoding drug-metabolizing enzymes, drug transporters, and/or drug targets (eg, receptors, enzymes). Pharmacogenomics is a burgeoning field aimed at elucidating the genetic basis of differences in drug efficacy and toxicity, using genome-wide approaches to identify the network of genes that govern an individual's response to drug therapy. For some genetic polymorphisms, such as thiopurine S-methyltransferase (TPMT), monogenic traits have a marked effect on the pharmacokinetics of medications, such that individuals who inherit an enzyme deficiency must be treated with markedly different doses of the affected medications (eg, 5-10% of the standard thiopurine dose). This review uses the TPMT polymorphism and thiopurine therapy (eg, azathioprine, mercaptopurine) to illustrate the potential of pharmacogenomics to elucidate genetic determinants of drug response, and optimize the selection of drug therapy for individual patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Haplotypes
  • Humans
  • Methyltransferases / analysis
  • Methyltransferases / genetics
  • Methyltransferases / metabolism*
  • Pharmacogenetics*
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Purines / metabolism
  • Purines / pharmacokinetics*
  • Purines / therapeutic use


  • Purines
  • Methyltransferases
  • thiopurine methyltransferase