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Ann Bot. 2010 Jan;105(1):1-6. doi: 10.1093/aob/mcp259.

Polyamines: ubiquitous polycations with unique roles in growth and stress responses.

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  • 1Graduate School of Natural Science and Technology, Okayama University, 700-8530 Okayama, Japan. perfect@cc.okayama-u.ac.jp



Polyamines are small polycationic molecules found ubiquitously in all organisms and function in a wide variety of biological processes. In the past decade, molecular and genetic studies using mutants and transgenic plants with an altered activity of enzymes involved in polyamine biosynthesis have contributed much to a better understanding of the biological functions of polyamines in plants.


Spermidine is essential for survival of Arabidopsis embryos. One of the reasons may lie in the fact that spermidine serves as a substrate for the lysine hypusine post-translational modification of the eukaryotic translation initiation factor 5A, which is essential in all eukaryotic cells. Spermine is not essential but plays a role in stress responses, probably through the modulation of cation channel activities, and as a source of hydrogen peroxide during pathogen infection. Thermospermine, an isomer of spermine, is involved in stem elongation, possibly by acting on the regulation of upstream open reading frame-mediated translation.


The mechanisms of action of polyamines differ greatly from those of plant hormones. There remain numerous unanswered questions regarding polyamines in plants, such as transport systems and polyamine-responsive genes. Further studies on the action of polyamines will undoubtedly provide a new understanding of plant growth regulation and stress responses.

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