Inhibitors of polyamine metabolism: review article

Amino Acids. 2004 Jul;26(4):353-65. doi: 10.1007/s00726-004-0092-6. Epub 2004 Apr 26.


The identification of increased polyamine concentrations in a variety of diseases from cancer and psoriasis to parasitic infections has led to the hypothesis that manipulation of polyamine metabolism is a realistic target for therapeutic or preventative intervention in the treatment of certain diseases. The early development of polyamine biosynthetic single enzyme inhibitors such as alpha-difluoromethylornithine (DFMO) and methylglyoxal bis(guanylhydrazone) showed some interesting early promise as anticancer drugs, but ultimately failed in vivo. Despite this, DFMO is currently in use as an effective anti-parasitic agent and has recently also been shown to have further potential as a chemopreventative agent in colorectal cancer. The initial promise in vitro led to the development and testing of other potential inhibitors of the pathway namely the polyamine analogues. The analogues have met with greater success than the single enzyme inhibitors possibly due to their multiple targets. These include down regulation of polyamine biosynthesis through inhibition of ornithine decarboxylase and S-adenosylmethionine decarboxylase and decreased polyamine uptake. This coupled with increased activity of the catabolic enzymes, polyamine oxidase and spermidine/spermine N1-acetyltransferase, and increased polyamine export has made the analogues more effective in depleting polyamine pools. Recently, the identification of a new oxidase (PAO-h1/SMO) in polyamine catabolism and evidence of induction of both PAO and PAO-h1/SMO in response to polyamine analogue treatment, suggests the analogues may become an important part of future chemotherapeutic and/or chemopreventative regimens.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease*
  • Eflornithine / metabolism
  • Eflornithine / therapeutic use
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / metabolism*
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Mitoguazone / metabolism
  • Mitoguazone / therapeutic use
  • Ornithine Decarboxylase / metabolism
  • Ornithine Decarboxylase Inhibitors
  • Oxidoreductases Acting on CH-NH Group Donors / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Oxidoreductases Acting on CH-NH Group Donors / metabolism
  • Polyamines / chemistry
  • Polyamines / metabolism*
  • S-Adenosylmethionine / analogs & derivatives


  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Ornithine Decarboxylase Inhibitors
  • Polyamines
  • S-Adenosylmethionine
  • Oxidoreductases Acting on CH-NH Group Donors
  • polyamine oxidase
  • Ornithine Decarboxylase
  • Mitoguazone
  • Eflornithine