Engineering Polyamine Metabolic Pathways for Abiotic Stress Tolerance in Plants

  • Susana de Sousa Araújo
  • André Luis Wendt dos Santos
  • Ana Sofia DuqueEmail author


In the current scenario of climate change, plants are being challenged with frequent episodes of extreme weather events and suffer recurrently from various abiotic stresses that negatively affect growth and development and limit plant productivity. Abiotic stresses activate the expression of several stress-related genes, leading to the synthesis of active proteins and accumulation of metabolites, and other osmotically active compounds. Among these compounds, we can highlight the polyamines (PAs), interesting biomolecules that play an important role on plant physiology, development, and response to environment. PAs are low-molecular-weight, positively charged, aliphatic amines that are found widespread in living organisms. In plants, the most abundant PAs are putrescine (Put), spermidine (Spd), and spermine (Spm). They are synthesized from decarboxylation of amino acids, mainly arginine and ornithine. Put is synthesized primarily through the activity of the enzymes arginine decarboxylase (ADC) and ornithine decarboxylase (ODC). Put is then converted into Spd by spermidine synthase (SPDS), and Spd is further converted into Spm by Spm synthase (SPMS). PA levels in plants increase under a number of environmental stress conditions, including drought, high salinity, and exposure to extreme temperatures (heating or freezing). Numerous studies have provided evidences that enhanced accumulation of PAs in plants is correlated with increased resistance to adverse environmental conditions. In this chapter, we will provide a current state of the art on the works related to the development of plants with altered PA contents, by the manipulation of PA metabolic pathways through genetic engineering, and discussed the possible associated effects on several abiotic stresses.


Abiotic stress Tolerance Drought Salinity Extreme temperatures Transgenic plants Manipulation polyamine metabolism 



Financial support from FCT (Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia, Lisbon, Portugal) is acknowledged through the research unit “GREEN-it: Bioresources for Sustainability” (UID/Multi/04551/2013) and through ASD and SSA PhD holders DL57 research contracts. ALWS is supported by FAPESP (Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo) and Young Investigators Grants 15/21075-4 and 17/01284-3. ALWS thanks Dra. Eny IS Floh (Department of Botany, University of São Paulo) for her valuable collaboration and pioneering studies with polyamines in Brazil.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susana de Sousa Araújo
    • 1
  • André Luis Wendt dos Santos
    • 2
  • Ana Sofia Duque
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Laboratory of Plant Cell Biotechnology (BCV), Instituto de Tecnologia Química e Biológica António Xavier (Green-it Unit)Universidade Nova de LisboaOeirasPortugal
  2. 2.Laboratory of Plant Cellular Biology (BIOCEL), Instituto de Biociências (IB)Universidade de São Paulo (USP)São PauloBrazil

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