The polyamines are organic compounds having two or more primary amino groups - such as putrescine, cadaverine, spermidine, and spermine - that are growth factors in both eucaryotic and procaryotic cells.
Though it is known that polyamines are synthesized in cells via highly-regulated pathways, their actual function is not entirely clear. As cations, they bind to DNA, and, in structure, they represent compounds with cations that are found at regularly-spaced intervals (unlike, say, Mg++ or Ca++, which are point charges).
If cellular polyamine synthesis is inhibited, cell growth is stopped or severely retarded. The provision of exogenous polyamines restores the growth of these cells. Most eukaryotic cells have a polyamine transporter system on their cell membrane that facilitates the internalization of exogenous polyamines. This system is highly active in rapidly proliferating cells and is the target of some chemotherapeutics currently under development.
Synthesis of linear polyamines
- In one pathway, arginine is converted into agmatine, with a reaction catalyzed by the enzyme arginine decarboxylase (ADC); then agmatine is transformed into carbamilputrescine by agmatine imino hydroxylase (AIH). Finally, carbamilputrescine is converted into putrescine.
- In the second pathway, arginine is converted into ornithine and then ornithine is converted into putrescine by ornithine decarboxylase (ODC).
Spermidine and spermine
- Wang, C.; Delcros, J.-G.; Cannon, L.; Konate, F.; Carias, H.; Biggerstaff, J.; Gardner, R.; Phanstiel, O. Defining the molecular requirements for the selective delivery of polyamine-conjugates into cells containing active polyamine transporters. J. Med. Chem. 2003, 46, 5129-5138.
- Ornithine Decarboxylase: Expression and regulation in rat brain and in transgenic mice, 2002, Pekka Kilpelainen, Department of Biochemistry, University of Oulu. Extensive review of literature through 2001 on polyamine structure, properties, metabolism in mammals, and physiological and pathophysiological roles (See article Table of Contents)