UTA biochemists have created new hope for the large number of patients dependent on thiopurine drugs by discovering how these drugs work.
This knowledge could lead to an improvement of those drugs, which are commonly used to treat autoimmune disorders and cancers, but are also associated with side effects like cardiovascular disease and hypertension.
The researchers showed that thiopurine drugs connect with Rac1 proteins within the immune system's T cells via a disulfide bond. This bond deactivates the proteins and suppresses the cells' immune response. The study also demonstrated that thiopurine's disulfide bonds can affect vascular functions.
"Up to now, no one has known exactly how the thiopurine immunosuppressive process works," says Jongyun Heo, associate professor of chemistry and leader of the study published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. "We are hoping that this discovery also creates an opportunity to improve thiopurine drugs and to design new chemotherapeutic agents for autoimmune disorders."