Through its role in polyamine acetylation and the back-conversion pathway, spermidine/spermine N1-acetyltransferase (SSAT) has the potential to control intracellular polyamine pools by facilitating their catabolism and/or excretion. The possibility that the enzyme is subject to regulation by intracellular polyamine pools was investigated in MALME-3 human melanoma cells. Increases in intracellular polyamine pools by treatment with 3 microM exogenous spermidine or spermine for 48 h caused SSAT activity to increase 111% and 226%, respectively, and SSAT-specific mRNA to rise 19% and 66%, respectively. Decreases in polyamine pools by treatment with inhibitors of polyamine biosynthesis caused SSAT activity to decrease by 46% and mRNA to fall by 89%. Both SSAT activity and mRNA were more sensitive to changes in spermine than spermidine. The identification of a positive regulatory relationship between SSAT and intracellular polyamine pools further implicates this enzyme in a proposed model for polyamine pool homeostasis.