Amino Acids

, Volume 42, Issue 2–3, pp 411–426 | Cite as

Polyamine catabolism: target for antiproliferative therapies in animals and stress tolerance strategies in plants

  • Paraskevi Tavladoraki
  • Alessandra Cona
  • Rodolfo Federico
  • Giampiero Tempera
  • Nikenza Viceconte
  • Stefania Saccoccio
  • Valentina Battaglia
  • Antonio Toninello
  • Enzo Agostinelli
Minireview Article


Metabolism of polyamines spermidine and spermine, and their diamine precursor, putrescine, has been a target for antineoplastic therapy since these naturally occurring alkyl amines were found essential for normal mammalian cell growth. Intracellular polyamine concentrations are maintained at a cell type-specific set point through the coordinated and highly regulated interplay between biosynthesis, transport, and catabolism. A correlation between regulation of cell proliferation and polyamine metabolism is described. In particular, polyamine catabolism involves copper-containing amine oxidases and FAD-dependent polyamine oxidases. Several studies showed an important role of these enzymes in several developmental and disease-related processes in both animals and plants through a control on polyamine homeostasis in response to normal cellular signals, drug treatment, environmental and/or cellular stressors. The production of toxic aldehydes and reactive oxygen species, H2O2 in particular, by these oxidases using extracellular and intracellular polyamines as substrates, suggests a mechanism by which the oxidases can be exploited as antineoplastic drug targets. This minireview summarizes recent advances on the physiological roles of polyamine catabolism in animals and plants in an attempt to highlight differences and similarities that may contribute to determine in detail the underlined mechanisms involved. This information could be useful in evaluating the possibility of this metabolic pathway as a target for new antiproliferative therapies in animals and stress tolerance strategies in plants.


Polyamines Polyamine oxidase Amine oxidase Tumor cells Reactive oxygen species Plants 



Abscisic acid


Arginine decarboxylase


Aldehyde dehydrogenase


Aminoaldehyde dehydrogenase


N 1 -acetylpolyamine oxidase


Arabidopsis thaliana CuAO


Arabidopsis thaliana PAO




Bovine serum amine oxidase


Chinese hamster ovary


N 1-ethyl-N 11-[(cyclopropyl)methyl]-4,8-diazaundecane


Copper amine oxidase








Eukaryotic translation initiation factor 5A


Fetal bovine serum


γ-aminobutyric acid


Hydroxyl radical


Hypersensitive response


Jasmonic acid




Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs


Ornithine decarboxylase


Polyamine oxidase


Phosphate buffered saline-bovin serum albumin


Protein conjugated acrolein


Programmed cell death






Reactive oxygen species


Salicylic acid


S-adenosylmethionine decarboxylase


Spermine oxidase




Spd synthase




Spm synthase


Spd/Spm N 1-acetyltransferase




Tobacco mosaic virus


Tumor-necrosis factor α




Maize PAO



This work was partially supported by the Italian MIUR (Ministero dell’Istruzione, dell’Università e della Ricerca), by Istituto Superiore di Sanità “Project Italy-USA”, by Istituto Pasteur-Fondazione Cenci Bolognetti and by funds MIUR-PRIN (Cofin). Thanks are due to Fondazione ‘Enrico ed Enrica Sovena’ for the scholarships given to Nikenza Viceconte and Stefania Saccoccio for supporting their Ph.D.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paraskevi Tavladoraki
    • 1
  • Alessandra Cona
    • 1
  • Rodolfo Federico
    • 1
  • Giampiero Tempera
    • 2
  • Nikenza Viceconte
    • 2
  • Stefania Saccoccio
    • 2
  • Valentina Battaglia
    • 3
  • Antonio Toninello
    • 3
  • Enzo Agostinelli
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity ‘Roma Tre’RomeItaly
  2. 2.Department of Biochemical Sciences, Istituto Pasteur-Fondazione Cenci BolognettiSAPIENZA University of Rome and CNR, Institute Biology and Molecular PathologyRomeItaly
  3. 3.Department of Biological ChemistryUniversity of PaduaPaduaItaly

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