Xanthine and hypoxanthine are naturally occurring purine derivatives. Xanthine is created from guanine by guanine deaminase, from hypoxanthine by xanthine oxidoreductase, and from xanthosine by purine nucleoside phosphorylase. Xanthine is used as a building block for human and animal drug medications, and is an ingredient in pesticides. In vitro, xanthine and related derivatives act as competitive nonselective phosphodiesterase inhibitors, raising intracellular cAMP, activating Protein Kinase A (PKA), inhibiting tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) as well as and leukotriene synthesis. Furthermore, xanthines can reduce levels of inflammation and act as nonselective adenosine receptor antagonists.
Hypoxanthine is sometimes found in nucleic acids such as in the anticodon of tRNA in the form of its nucleoside inosine. Hypoxanthine is a necessary part of certain cell, bacteria, and parasitic cultures as a substrate and source of nitrogen. For example, hypoxanthine is often a necessary component in malaria parasite cultures, since Plasmodium falciparum needs hypoxanthine to make nucleic acids as well as to support energy metabolism. Recently NASA studies with meteorites found on Earth supported the idea that hypoxanthine and related organic molecules can be formed extraterrestrially. Hypoxanthine can form as a spontaneous deamination product of adenine. Because of its similar structure to guanine, the resulting hypoxanthine base can lead to an error in DNA transcription/replication, as it base pairs with cytosine. Hypoxanthine is typically removed from DNA by base excision repair and is initiated by N-methylpurine glycosylase (MPG).