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Prog Neurobiol. 1999 Apr;57(5):485-505.

The cellular localization of the L-ornithine decarboxylase/polyamine system in normal and diseased central nervous systems.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of Magdeburg, Germany.


Natural polyamines, spermidine and spermine, and their precursor putrescine, are of considerable importance for the developing and mature nervous system. They exhibit a number of neurophysiological and metabolic effects in the nervous system, including control of nucleic acid and protein synthesis, modulation of ionic channels and calcium-dependent transmitter release. The polyamine system is also known to be involved in various brain pathologic events (seizures, stroke, Alzheimer's disease and others). While cerebral polyamine concentrations and the activities of polyamine-metabolizing enzymes have been studied in great detail, much less is known about the cells that are responsible for cerebral polyamine synthesis and interconversion. With the present review the attempt is made to show how exact knowledge about the regional distribution and cellular localization of polyamines and the polyamine-synthesizing enzymatic machinery (and especially of L-ornithine decarboxylase) may help to better understand the functional interplay between polyamines and other endogenous agents (transmitters, receptors, growth factors neuroactive drugs etc.). Polyamines have been localized both in neurones and glial cells. However, the main cellular locus of the ODC is the neuron--both in the immature and adult central nervous system. Each period of normal brain development and ageing seems to have its own, characteristic temporo-spatial pattern of neuronal ODC expression. During strong functional activation (kindling, epileptic seizures, neural transplantation) astrocytes and other non-neuronal cells do also express ODC and other polyamine-metabolizing enzymes. Astroglial expression of ODC is accompanied by an increase in glial fibrillary acidic protein in these cells. This shift in the cellular mechanisms of polyamine metabolism is currently far from being understood. In human brain diseases (Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia) certain neurones show an increased expression of ODC, the first and rate-limiting enzyme of polyamine metabolism. Since polyamines are structurally related to psychoactive drugs (neuroleptics, antidepressants) the polyamine system might be of importance as a putative target for drug intervention in psychiatry.

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