Excessive accumulation of polyamines causes cytotoxicity, including inhibition of cell growth and a decrease in viability. We investigated the mechanism of cytotoxicity caused by spermidine accumulation under various conditions using an Escherichia coli strain deficient in spermidine acetyltransferase (SAT), a key catabolic enzyme in controlling polyamine levels. Due to the excessive accumulation of polyamines by the addition of exogenous spermidine to the growth medium, cell growth and viability were markedly decreased through translational repression of specific proteins [RMF (ribosome modulation factor) and Fis (rRNA transcription factor) etc.] encoded by members of polyamine modulon, which are essential for cell growth and viability. In particular, synthesis of proteins that have unusual locations of the Shine-Dalgarno (SD) sequence in their mRNAs was inhibited. In order to elucidate the molecular mechanism of cytotoxicity by the excessive accumulation of spermidine, the spermidine-dependent structural change of the bulged-out region in the mRNA at the initiation site of the rmf mRNA was examined using NMR analysis. It was suggested that the structure of the mRNA bulged-out region is affected by excess spermidine, so the SD sequence of the rmf mRNA cannot approach initiation codon AUG.
Keywords: cell growth; cell viability; cytotoxicity; polyamine modulon; polyamines; spermidine.