Novel variants in NUDT15 and thiopurine intolerance in children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia from diverse ancestry

Takaya Moriyama, Yung-Li Yang, Rina Nishii, Hany Ariffin, Chengcheng Liu, Ting-Nien Lin, Wenjian Yang, Dong-Tsamn Lin, Chih-Hsiang Yu, Shirley Kham, Ching-Hon Pui, William E. Evans, Sima Jeha, Mary V. Relling, Allen Eng-Juh Yeoh and Jun J. Yang

Key Points

  • We identified 3 novel loss-of-function variants in NUDT15 linked to thiopurine intolerance.

  • Our findings extended the importance of NUDT15 variation in thiopurine pharmacogenetics in diverse populations.


Prolonged exposure to thiopurines (eg, mercaptopurine [MP]) is essential for curative therapy in acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), but is also associated with frequent dose-limiting hematopoietic toxicities, which is partly explained by inherited genetic polymorphisms in drug metabolizing enzymes (eg, TPMT). Recently, our group and others identified germ line genetic variants in NUDT15 as another major cause of thiopurine-related myelosuppression, particularly in Asian and Hispanic people. In this article, we describe 3 novel NUDT15 coding variants (p.R34T, p.K35E, and p.G17_V18del) in 5 children with ALL enrolled in frontline protocols in Singapore, Taiwan, and at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Patients carrying these variants experienced significant toxicity and reduced tolerance to MP across treatment protocols. Functionally, all 3 variants led to partial to complete loss of NUDT15 nucleotide diphosphatase activity and negatively influenced protein stability. In particular, the p.G17_V18del variant protein showed extremely low thermostability and was completely void of catalytic activity, thus likely to confer a high risk of thiopurine intolerance. This in-frame deletion was only seen in African and European patients, and is the first NUDT15 risk variant identified in non-Asian, non-Hispanic populations. In conclusion, we discovered 3 novel loss-of-function variants in NUDT15 associated with MP toxicity, enabling more comprehensive pharmacogenetics-based thiopurine dose adjustments across diverse populations.

  • Submitted May 2, 2017.
  • Accepted June 20, 2017.
View Full Text