Amino Acids

, Volume 40, Issue 4, pp 1127–1137 | Cite as

A pro-survival effect of polyamine depletion on norepinephrine-mediated apoptosis in cardiac cells: role of signaling enzymes

  • Silvia Cetrullo
  • Benedetta TantiniEmail author
  • Annalisa Facchini
  • Carla Pignatti
  • Claudio Stefanelli
  • Claudio Marcello Caldarera
  • Flavio Flamigni
Original Article


Recent studies report that the primary transmitter of sympathetic nervous system norepinephrine (NE), which is actively produced in failing human heart, is able to induce apoptosis of rat cardiomyocytes. Apoptotic cell death of cardiomyocytes is involved in several cardiovascular diseases including ischemia, hypertrophy and heart failure, therefore representing a potential therapeutic target. The natural occurring polyamines, putrescine, spermidine and spermine, are biogenic amines involved in many cellular processes, including apoptosis. Thus, we have studied the involvement of polyamines in the apoptosis of cardiac cells induced by the treatment with NE. The results indicate that NE caused an early induction of the activity of ornithine decarboxylase (ODC), the first enzyme in polyamine biosynthesis, followed by a later increase of apoptotic cell death. This effect was prevented in the presence of α-difluoromethylornithine, an irreversible inhibitor of ODC. Moreover, the study of some key signal transduction pathways revealed an involvement of AMP-activated protein kinase, AKT and p38 mitogen-activated protein kinases, in the modulation by polyamines of the response of cardiomyocytes to NE. In fact, polyamine-depleted cells showed an altered activation pattern of these kinases that may contrast apoptosis and appeared to result from a differential effect on the specific phosphatases that dephosphorylate and switch off these signaling proteins. In conclusion, these results indicate that in cardiac cells polyamines are involved in the execution of the death program activated by NE, and suggest that their apoptosis facilitating action is mediated by a network of specific phosphatases and kinases.


Norepinephrine Cardiac cells Apoptosis Polyamines Kinases Phosphatases 



The excellent technical assistance of Maddalena Zini is acknowledged. This work was supported by grants from University of Bologna (R.F.O.), Istituto Nazionale per le Ricerche Cardiovascolari (INRC) and Compagnia di San Paolo, Torino, Italy.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Silvia Cetrullo
    • 1
  • Benedetta Tantini
    • 1
    Email author
  • Annalisa Facchini
    • 1
  • Carla Pignatti
    • 1
  • Claudio Stefanelli
    • 1
  • Claudio Marcello Caldarera
    • 2
  • Flavio Flamigni
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biochemistry “G. Moruzzi”University of BolognaBolognaItaly
  2. 2.National Institute for Cardiovascular ResearchBolognaItaly

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