Another Perspective

The following commentary was adapted from an e-mail message received by the authors of NetBiochem from Michael J. Hosey Jr., e-mail:, and is provided to NetBiochem users with his permission as a step toward expanding traditional thinking on this topic. Further comments would be welcomed by James Baggott at

The statement in the Overview paragraph that nucleotides and their bases are not required dietary components may be open to question.

The work of Dr. Charles Van Buren at the University of Texas Medical School , Department of Organ Transplantation, who has been involved in immunosuppresion research for over 15 years, His findings "...initially suggested in the observation that renal allograft patients supported with parenteral nucleotide-free nutrient solutions displayed a suppressed immune response to the allograft despite reduction in pharmacoimmunosuppression" show that in immunosuppresion patients dietary pyrimidines (uracil) and not purines (adenine) have a significant effect on the T-lymphocyte function. He has, in recent years also had an opportunity to conduct some research using human subjects, who were hospitalized and immunosuppressed due to transplantations and therefore well controlled, and produced similar results to his initial lab research.

Dismissal of the necessity of a dietary source in the first paragraph and then the somewhat detailed description of their metabolism in the "Hydrolysis of Polynucleotides" section may seem to be somewhat incongruous unless there is some question as to whether or not they might be necessary.

Further, the statement that "little dietary purine is used and that which is absorbed is largely catabolized," leaves a question of what use is the little that isn't catabolized ? Also, purines and pyrimidines from tissue turnover which are not salvaged are catabolized and excreted and the fact that de novo synthesis is rather energy intensive could suggest that dietary sources, when available, would be welcome additions to metabolism mechanisms. And what of hepatic tissue of deficient and diseased patients? Can they survive solely through salvage methods alone? And as we age does not the ability to produce needed nucleic acids decrease?


Van Buren C.T., Kulkarni A.D., Schandle V.B., "The Influence of Dietary Nucleotides on Cell-Mediated Immnity", Transplantation 1983, 36:350-352

Van Buren C.T., Kulkarni A.D.. Rudolph F.B., "The Role of Dietary Nucleotides in Adult Nutrition", The Journal of Nutrition, January 1994; 124:124S-160S.

Return to the main Purines and Pyrimidines page.

Last modified 4/17/96