Background: Thiopurine methyl transferase (TPMT), a drug-metabolizing enzyme, catalyzes methylation and consequently, the metabolism of thiopurine compounds used for treatment of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Individuals who are homozygous recessive or have extremely low TPMT activity need to avoid thiopurines because of concern for significant leukopenia. The aim of this research was to determine TPMT phenotypes and genotypes in IBD patients to predict the risk of thiopurine toxicity before treatment.
Methods: The present case-control study consisted of 210 ulcerative colitis patients and 212 unrelated healthy controls from the population of western Iran. TPMT phenotype and genotype were determined by HPLC and allele specific PCR and PCR-RFLP, respectively.
Results: TPMT phenotyping and genotyping were compatible and demonstrated no frequency for deficient, 2.2% for low, and 97.8% for normal-activity which is different compared with the results of other studies. There was a significant negative correlation between TPMT activities as calculated based on nmol6MTG/gHb/h and the Hb levels in both UC (r = -0.54, p < 0.001) and control groups (r = -0.27, p < 0.001). Interestingly, a significant positive correlation between Hb levels and TPMT activities was seen when the enzyme activity was calculated in mU/L in both UC patients (r = 0.14, p = 0.05) and in control subjects (r = 0.43, p < 0.001). The overall concordance rate between TPMT phenotypes and genotypes of mutants to alleles (9 out of 422), based on receiver-operating characteristic (ROC) curve, yielded a sensitivity of 94.7% and specificity of 90% for mU/L and a sensitivity of 85.6% and specificity of 90% for nmol6MTG/gHb/h.
Conclusions: The use of mU/L is more appropriate than nmol6MTG/gHb/h for expressing TPMT activity, and there is better correlation between genotypes and phenotypes of TPMT based on mU/L. The frequency of known mutant TPMT alleles in western Iran (Kurd population) is low suggesting low risk of thiopurine drug toxicity in IBD patients from this region.