Treatment of Plasmodium falciparum with the potent inhibitor dicyclohexylamine completely arrests in vitro cell proliferation of the chloroquine-susceptible P. falciparum strain NF54 and the R strain, which shows less sensivity to chloroquine. The average inhibitory concentration (IC50) values determined for both strains revealed different inhibition profiles. The IC50 value for the chloroquine-sensitive NF54 strain was 97 microM and 501 microM for the R strain. Monitoring polyamine pools after treatment with dicyclohexylamine leads to a significant decrease in the intracellular spermidine content, which was nearly reversed by supplementation with spermidine. Since spermidine is an important precursor for the biosynthesis of hypusine and homospermidine in eukaryotes, we studied the developmental effect on both P. falciparum strains of 1,7-diaminoheptane as an inhibitor of deoxyhypusine synthase (EC 188.8.131.52) in mammalian cells, and agmatine as a moderate inhibitor of homospermidine synthase (EC 184.108.40.206). Inhibition profiles with 1,7-diaminoheptane resulted in an IC50 value of 466 microM for the NF54 strain and 319 microM for the R strain. Spermidine pools changed significantly. Inhibition with agmatine caused a strong decrease in parasitemia for the chloroquine-susceptible NF54 strain, with a determined IC50 value of 431 microM and an IC50 value of 340 microM for the less chloroquine-susceptible R strain. Spermidine was not detectable after inhibition. The uncommon triamine homospermidine occurred in both P. falciparum strains. To our knowledge this is the first evidence of homospermidine in P. falciparum. The use of specific inhibitors of spermidine metabolism might be a novel strategy for the design of new antimalarials, and suggests the occurrence of both enzymes in the parasite.