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J Biol Chem. 2003 Dec 12;278(50):49868-73. Epub 2003 Sep 23.

Methylthioadenosine phosphorylase regulates ornithine decarboxylase by production of downstream metabolites.

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Divisions of Population Science and Basic Science, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19111, USA.


The gene encoding methylthioadenosine phosphorylase (MTAP), the initial enzyme in the methionine salvage pathway, is deleted in a variety of human tumors and acts as a tumor suppressor gene in cell culture (Christopher, S. A., Diegelman, P., Porter, C. W., and Kruger, W. D. (2002) Cancer Res. 62, 6639-6644). Overexpression of the polyamine biosynthetic enzyme ornithine decarboxylase (ODC) is frequently observed in tumors and has been shown to be tumorigenic in vitro and in vivo. In this paper, we demonstrate a novel regulatory pathway in which the methionine salvage pathway products inhibit ODC activity. We show that in Saccharomyces cerevisiae the MEU1 gene encodes MTAP and that Meu1delta cells have an 8-fold increase in ODC activity, resulting in large elevations in polyamine pools. Mutations in putative salvage pathway genes downstream of MTAP also cause elevated ODC activity and elevated polyamines. The addition of the penultimate salvage pathway compound 4-methylthio-2-oxobutanoic acid represses ODC levels in both MTAP-deleted yeast and human tumor cell lines, indicating that 4-methylthio-2-oxobutanoic acid acts as a negative regulator of polyamine biosynthesis. Expression of MTAP in MTAP-deleted MCF-7 breast adenocarcinoma cells results in a significant reduction of ODC activity and reduction in polyamine levels. Taken together, our results show that products of the methionine salvage pathway regulate polyamine biosynthesis and suggest that MTAP deletion may lead to ODC activation in human tumors.

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