Polyamine metabolism and cancer

J Cell Mol Med. Apr-Jun 2003;7(2):113-26. doi: 10.1111/j.1582-4934.2003.tb00210.x.


Polyamines are aliphatic cations present in all cells. In normal cells, polyamine levels are intricately controlled by biosynthetic and catabolic enzymes. The biosynthetic enzymes are ornithine decarboxylase, S-adenosylmethionine decarboxylase, spermidine synthase, and spermine synthase. The catabolic enzymes include spermidine/spermine acetyltransferase, flavin containing polyamine oxidase, copper containing diamine oxidase, and possibly other amine oxidases. Multiple abnormalities in the control of polyamine metabolism and uptake might be responsible for increased levels of polyamines in cancer cells as compared to that of normal cells. This review is designed to look at the current research in polyamine biosynthesis, catabolism, and transport pathways, enumerate the functions of polyamines, and assess the potential for using polyamine metabolism or function as targets for cancer therapy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acetyltransferases / metabolism
  • Adenosylmethionine Decarboxylase / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Ornithine Decarboxylase / metabolism*
  • Oxidoreductases Acting on CH-NH Group Donors / metabolism
  • Polyamines / metabolism*
  • Spermidine Synthase / metabolism
  • Spermine Synthase / metabolism


  • Polyamines
  • Oxidoreductases Acting on CH-NH Group Donors
  • polyamine oxidase
  • Acetyltransferases
  • diamine N-acetyltransferase
  • Spermidine Synthase
  • Spermine Synthase
  • Ornithine Decarboxylase
  • Adenosylmethionine Decarboxylase