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J Cell Mol Med. 2005 Jul-Sep;9(3):623-42.

Polyamines and apoptosis.

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  • 1Laboratory of Nutritional Cancer Prevention, Institut de Recherche Contre les Cancers de l'Appareil Digestif (IRCAD), Strasbourg Cedex, 67091, France.


The natural polyamines putrescine, spermidine and spermine are in multiple ways involved in cell growth and the maintenance of cell viability. In the course of the last 15 years more and more evidence hinted also at roles in gene regulation. It is therefore not surprising that the polyamines are involved in events inherent to genetically programmed cell death. Following inhibition of ornithine decarboxylase, a key step in polyamine biosynthesis, numerous links have been identified between the polyamines and apoptotic pathways. Examples of activation and prevention of apoptosis due to polyamine depletion are known for several cell lines. Elevation of polyamine concentrations may lead to apoptosis or to malignant transformation. These observations are discussed in the present review, together with possible mechanisms of action of the polyamines. Contradictory results and incomplete information blur the picture and complicate interpretation. Since, however, much interest is focussed at present on all aspects of programmed cell death, a considerable progress in the elucidation of polyamine functions in apoptotic signalling pathways is expected, even though enormous difficulties oppose pinpointing specific interactions of the polyamines with pro- and anti-apoptotic factors. Such situation is quite common in polyamine research.

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