A report on the potential of Rac1/pSTAT3 protein levels in T lymphocytes to assess the pharmacodynamic effect of thiopurine therapy in Inflammatory Bowel Disease patients. Debbie S Deben , Rob H Creemers, Arjan J van Adrichem, Roosmarie Drent, Audrey H H Merry, Mathie P G Leers, Adriaan A van Bodegraven, Dennis R Wong
Published in Sep 2022, Scientific reports
The thiopurine derivatives azathioprine (AZA), mercaptopurine (MP) and tioguanine (TG) remain standard treatment of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The immune suppressive effect of thiopurines is primarily based on blocking the Ras-related C3 botulinum toxin substrate 1 (Rac1) causing apoptosis of T lymphocytes by inhibition of the phosphorylated downstream transcription factor Signal Transducer and Activator of Transcription 3 (pSTAT3). A functional pharmacodynamic marker in T lymphocytes may be useful to predict therapeutic outcome of thiopurine therapy.
The aim of this study was to explore whether protein levels of Rac1 and pSTAT3 in T lymphocytes may be applied as a specific pharmacodynamic marker for thiopurine therapy in IBD patients. Rac1 and pSTAT3 protein levels in T lymphocytes were explored in 57 IBD patients (median age 51 years, 56% female), subdivided into six groups based on IBD activity and its treatment: patients with active disease without IBD maintenance medication (1) or patients in remission on AZA/MP (2), TG (3), infliximab (IFX) (4), thiopurine and IFX combination-treatment (5) or without IBD medication (6). Reference values were obtained from healthy subjects. Rac1 and pSTAT3 protein levels in T lymphocytes from patients on thiopurine monotherapy (group 2 and 3) were compared to the other groups, and to healthy subjects. Absolute Rac1 and pSTAT3 protein levels showed no differences between the thiopurine monotherapy groups when compared to patients with active disease.
However, the ratio of Rac1 and pSTAT3 protein levels was lower in thiopurine patients groups compared to patients with active disease. Rac1-corrected pSTAT3 protein levels may serve as a pharmacodynamic marker of thiopurine monotherapy and may be a potential tool to predict therapeutic effectiveness in IBD patients.