The interference of platelets with the estimation of unscheduled DNA synthesis in human peripheral mononuclear leukocytes following genotoxic exposure was studied. A 96% reduction in the unscheduled DNA synthesis value was achieved by incubating [3H]thymidine with platelet-rich plasma for 5 hr at 37°. Using radioactive thymine-containing compounds, together with quantitative analyses based on thin-layer and ion-exchange chromatographies, we have shown that thymidine was converted to thymine which, in turn, was converted to dihydrothymine in platelet-rich plasma. The enzymes responsible were separated from platelet lysates by gel filtration and were identified as thymidine phosphorylase and dihydrothymine dehydrogenase. The phosphorylase reversibly catalyzed the formation of thymine from thymidine and converted bromodeoxyuridine to bromouracil. The dehydrogenase reversibly catalyzed the interconversion of thymine and dihydrothymine in a reaction dependent on NADP(H), and it was inhibited by diazouracil and by thymine. Nearly all the thymidine-catabolizing activity found in whole blood samples supplied exogenously with thymidine was accounted for by the platelets. Since most genetic toxicological tests that use blood samples do not involve removing platelets from the blood cell cultures, then it is concluded that precautions should be taken in the future to determine the influence of platelets on these test systems. This is particularly true for methods dependent on thymidine pulses such as unscheduled DNA synthesis, or those dependent on bromodeoxyuridine, such as sister chromatid exchanges, since this nucleoside is also a substrate for thymidine phosphorylase.


This study was supported by the Swedish Council for Planning and Coordination of Research in “Chemical Health Risks in our Environment,” by the Swedish Workers' Protection Fund, and by the Swedish National Association against Heart and Lung Diseases, and by a special grant from the Health Sciences Center in Dalby, Sweden.

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