Elevated levels of polyamines and trypanothione resulting from overexpression of the ornithine decarboxylase gene in arsenite-resistant Leishmania

Mol Microbiol. 1999 Nov;34(4):726-35. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2958.1999.01634.x.


The levels of trypanothione, a glutathione-spermidine conjugate, are increased in the protozoan parasite Leishmania selected for resistance to the heavy metal arsenite. The levels of putrescine and spermidine were increased in resistant mutants. This increase is mediated by overexpression of ornithine decarboxylase (ODC), the rate-limiting enzyme in polyamine biosynthesis. Gene overexpression is generally mediated by gene amplification in Leishmania but, here, the mRNA and the enzymatic activity of ODC are increased without gene amplification. This RNA overexpression is stable when cells are grown in the absence of the drug and does not result from gene rearrangements or from an increased rate of RNA synthesis. Transient transfections suggest that mutations in the revertant cells contribute to these elevated levels of RNA. Stable transfection of the ODC gene increases the level of trypanothione, which can contribute to arsenite resistance. In addition to ODC overexpression, the gene for the ABC transporter PGPA is amplified in the mutants. The co-transfection of the ODC and PGPA genes confers resistance in a synergistic fashion in partial revertants, also suggesting that PGPA recognizes metals conjugated to trypanothione.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arsenites / pharmacology
  • Drug Resistance / physiology
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Gene Expression
  • Glutathione / analogs & derivatives*
  • Glutathione / metabolism
  • Leishmania / drug effects
  • Leishmania / enzymology
  • Leishmania / metabolism*
  • Metals / pharmacology
  • Ornithine Decarboxylase / biosynthesis*
  • Ornithine Decarboxylase / genetics
  • Ornithine Decarboxylase / metabolism
  • Polyamines / metabolism*
  • Spermidine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Spermidine / metabolism


  • Arsenites
  • Metals
  • Polyamines
  • trypanothione
  • Ornithine Decarboxylase
  • Glutathione
  • arsenite
  • Spermidine