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Thiopurines are used in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) but remain clinically challenging to manage due to wide interpatient variability in clinical outcomes and adverse events. Apart from genetic variants in thiopurine S-methyltransferase (TPMT) and nudix hydrolase 15 (NUDT15) genes, polymorphisms in FTO alpha-ketoglutarate dependent dioxygenase (FTO) were found predictive of thiopurine-induced leukopenia, albeit with conflicting results. To clarify the role of FTO variants in a multiethnic Asian IBD cohort, we recruited 149 patients on thiopurine-based therapy and genotyped two FTO variants p.Ala134Thr (rs79206939) and rs16952570 T > C using Sanger sequencing. FTO p.Ala134Thr (rs79206939) was non-polymorphic and absent whereas intronic rs16952570 T > C was equally prevalent in Chinese (22%) and Indians (18%) and higher in Malays (28%). Higher nadir white blood cell (WBC) and absolute neutrophil count (ANC) levels were observed in patients harboring FTO rs16952570 CC genotypes compared with TT carriers at 4, 8, and 12 weeks after start of thiopurine therapy (P < 0.05). A similar trend was observed in patients carrying the previously well-characterized NUDT15 rs116855232 wild-type CC genotypes. Further in silico analysis suggests that FTO variants linked to rs16952570, particularly rs74018601, may play a regulatory role in altering the FTO expression. The findings from this study indicate a novel protective association with the FTO variant rs16952570 CC genotype and hematological parameters.


Sylvia Chen, Wei Zhi Tan, Natalia Sutiman, Cindy Lim, Sze Sing Lee, Wai Fook Leong, Madeline Tjai, Chunyan Wang, Chris San Choon Kong, Sai Wei Chuah, Brian John Schwender, Webber Chan, Hang Hock Shim, Wee Chian Lim, Chiea Chuen Khor, Khoon Lin Ling, Balram Chowbay. An intronic FTO variant rs16952570 confers protection against thiopurine-induced myelotoxicities in multiethnic Asian IBD patients. The pharmacogenomics journal. 2020 Jun;20(3):505-515

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PMID: 31813937

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