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J Cell Mol Med. 2003 Apr-Jun;7(2):113-26.

Polyamine metabolism and cancer.

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Department of Environmental & Community Medicine, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey - Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Brunswick, NJ 08903, USA.


Polyamines are aliphatic cations present in all cells. In normal cells, polyamine levels are intricately controlled by biosynthetic and catabolic enzymes. The biosynthetic enzymes are ornithine decarboxylase, S-adenosylmethionine decarboxylase, spermidine synthase, and spermine synthase. The catabolic enzymes include spermidine/spermine acetyltransferase, flavin containing polyamine oxidase, copper containing diamine oxidase, and possibly other amine oxidases. Multiple abnormalities in the control of polyamine metabolism and uptake might be responsible for increased levels of polyamines in cancer cells as compared to that of normal cells. This review is designed to look at the current research in polyamine biosynthesis, catabolism, and transport pathways, enumerate the functions of polyamines, and assess the potential for using polyamine metabolism or function as targets for cancer therapy.

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