Analysis of human ITPase nucleobase specificity by site-directed mutagenesis.

Document Type


Publication Date



Inosine triphosphate (ITP) pyrophosphohydrolase, or ITPase, is an intracellular enzyme that is responsible for the hydrolysis of the acidic anhydride bond between the alpha and beta phosphates in ITP, and other noncanonical nucleoside triphosphates, producing the corresponding nucleoside monophosphate and pyrophosphate. This activity protects the cell by preventing noncanonical nucleoside triphosphates from accumulating in (deoxy) nucleoside triphosphate ((d)NTP) pools and/or being integrated into nucleic acids. This enzyme is encoded by the ITPA gene in mammals. It has been reported that Itpa homozygous-null knock-out mice die before weaning and have gross cardiac abnormalities. Additionally, certain variations in the human ITPA gene have been linked to adverse reactions to the immunosuppressive prodrugs azathioprine and 6-mercaptopurine and protection against ribavirin-induced hemolytic anemia. These drugs are bioactivated to form noncanonical nucleoside triphosphates. Human ITPase enzymes engineered to modulate nucleobase specificity may be valuable tools for studying the role of ITPase in heart development and drug metabolism or developing gain-of-function mutants or inhibitory molecules. Based on x-ray crystallography and amino acid sequence data, a panel of putative human ITPase nucleobase specificity mutants has been generated. We targeted eight highly conserved amino acid positions within the ITPase sequence that correspond to amino acids predicted to directly interact with the nucleobase or help organize the nucleobase binding pocket. The ability of the mutants to protect against exogenous and endogenous noncanonical purines was tested with two Escherichia coli complementation assays. Nucleobase specificity of the mutants was investigated with an in vitro biochemical assay using ITP, GTP and ATP as substrates. This methodology allowed us to identify gain-of-function mutants and categorize the eight amino acid positions according to their ability to protect against noncanonical purines as follows: Glu-22, Trp-151 and Arg-178, essential for protection; Phe-149, Asp-152, Lys-172 and Ser-176, intermediate protection; His-177, dispensable for protection against noncanonical purines.

Original Publication Title






First Page


Last Page



DOI: 10.1016/j.biochi.2013.05.016