Medicine & USMLE

De Novo Purine Synthesis

Biochemical Pathways
  1. Glycolysis
  2. Citric Acid Cycle (TCA Cycle)
  3. Electron Transport Chain (ETC)
  4. Cori Cycle
  5. De Novo Purine Synthesis
  6. De Novo Pyrimidine Synthesis
  7. Purine Salvage
  8. Purine Excretion
  9. Ethanol Metabolism
  10. Pyruvate Metabolism
  11. HMP Shunt (Pentose Phosphate Pathway)
  12. Galactose Metabolism
  13. Sorbitol (Polyol) Pathway
  14. Urea Cycle
  15. Alanine (Cahill) Cycle
  16. Catecholamine Synthesis & Breakdown
  17. Homocysteine Metabolism
  18. Fatty Acid Synthesis (Citrate Shuttle)
  19. Fatty Acid Breakdown (Carnitine Shuttle)
  20. Propionic Acid Pathway
  21. Fructose Metabolism
  22. Regulation by Fructose-2,6-Bisphosphate (F-2,6-BP)
  23. Glycogenesis
  24. Glycogenolysis


De novo purine synthesis is a biochemical pathway that creates purine nucleotides from simple molecules. This can be contrasted against purine salvage, which recycles purines nucleotides after partial degradation.

De novo purine synthesis begins with the precursor molecule Ribose-5-phosphate (R5P) . R5P is then converted to its high energy, "activated" form, PRPP . This form enables the transfer of phosphoribosyl groups (such as R5P). This R5P transferred from PRPP forms the pentose sugar of the eventual purine nucleotide.

Next, PRPP undergoes a series of reactions that require aspartate, glycine, THF, and glutamine. Through these steps, PRPP is converted into IMP (inosine monophosphate), the purine precursor molecule. The conversion of PRPP to IMP can be inhibited by the drug 6-MP (6-mercaptopurine) as well as by its prodrug azathioprine.

Finally, IMP can be converted to either AMP (adenosine monophosphate) or GMP (guanine monophosphate). The latter reaction is especially important, as the drugs mycophenolate and ribavirin inhibit the enzyme IMP dehydrogenase, which converts IMP to GMP.

Key Points

  • De Novo Purine Synthesis
    • Common with De Novo Pyrimidine Synthesis and Purine Salvage
      • Ribose-5-P → PRPP
        • Catalyzed by PRPP synthetase
    • Specific to Purine Synthesis
      • PRPP → → → IMP
        • Requires aspartate, glycine, glutamine, and THF
        • Blocked by purine analog 6-MP (6-mercaptopurine) or its prodrug, azathioprine
      • IMP → GMP
        • catalyzed by IMP dehydrogenase
          • Inhibited by mycophenolate and ribavarin
      • IMP → AMP

Find De Novo Purine Synthesis and more Biochemical Pathways among Pixorize's visual mnemonics for the USMLE Step 1 and NBME Shelf Exams.