Polyamines and Their Role in Virus Infection

Microbiol Mol Biol Rev. 2017 Sep 13;81(4):e00029-17. doi: 10.1128/MMBR.00029-17. Print 2017 Dec.


Polyamines are small, abundant, aliphatic molecules present in all mammalian cells. Within the context of the cell, they play a myriad of roles, from modulating nucleic acid conformation to promoting cellular proliferation and signaling. In addition, polyamines have emerged as important molecules in virus-host interactions. Many viruses have been shown to require polyamines for one or more aspects of their replication cycle, including DNA and RNA polymerization, nucleic acid packaging, and protein synthesis. Understanding the role of polyamines has become easier with the application of small-molecule inhibitors of polyamine synthesis and the use of interferon-induced regulators of polyamines. Here we review the diverse mechanisms in which viruses require polyamines and investigate blocking polyamine synthesis as a potential broad-spectrum antiviral approach.

Keywords: DNA virus; RNA virus; eIF5A; polyamines.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antiviral Agents / pharmacology
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • DNA, Viral / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Polyamines / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Polyamines / metabolism*
  • RNA, Viral / metabolism
  • Viral Proteins / metabolism
  • Virus Diseases / drug therapy
  • Virus Diseases / metabolism*
  • Virus Replication* / drug effects


  • Antiviral Agents
  • DNA, Viral
  • Polyamines
  • RNA, Viral
  • Viral Proteins