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Pharmacol Res. 2016 Oct;112:99-118. doi: 10.1016/j.phrs.2016.03.023. Epub 2016 Mar 22.

Modulation of learning and memory by natural polyamines.

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Department of Food Technology, Federal Technological University of Paraná, Campus Medianeira, Medianeira, PR 85884-000, Brazil.
Department of Biochemistry, Center of Exact and Natural Sciences, Federal University of Santa Maria (UFSM), Santa Maria, RS 97105-900, Brazil. Electronic address:
Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Center of Health Sciences, Federal University of Santa Maria (UFSM), Santa Maria, RS 97105-900, Brazil. Electronic address:


Spermine and spermidine are natural polyamines that are produced mainly via decarboxylation of l-ornithine and the sequential transfer of aminopropyl groups from S-adenosylmethionine to putrescine by spermidine synthase and spermine synthase. Spermine and spermidine interact with intracellular and extracellular acidic residues of different nature, including nucleic acids, phospholipids, acidic proteins, carboxyl- and sulfate-containing polysaccharides. Therefore, multiple actions have been suggested for these polycations, including modulation of the activity of ionic channels, protein synthesis, protein kinases, and cell proliferation/death, within others. In this review we summarize these neurochemical/neurophysiological/morphological findings, particularly those that have been implicated in the improving and deleterious effects of spermine and spermidine on learning and memory of naïve animals in shock-motivated and nonshock-motivated tasks, from a historical perspective. The interaction with the opioid system, the facilitation and disruption of morphine-induced reward and the effect of polyamines and putative polyamine antagonists on animal models of cognitive diseases, such as Alzheimer's, Huntington, acute neuroinflammation and brain trauma are also reviewed and discussed. The increased production of polyamines in Alzheimer's disease and the biphasic nature of the effects of polyamines on memory and on the NMDA receptor are also considered. In light of the current literature on polyamines, which include the description of an inborn error of the metabolism characterized by mild-to moderate mental retardation and polyamine metabolism alterations in suicide completers, we can anticipate that polyamine targets may be important for the development of novel strategies and approaches for understanding the etiopathogenesis of important central disorders and their pharmacological treatment.


7-Nitroindazole (PubChem CID: 1893); Acamprosate (PubChem CID: 71158); Arcaine; Arcaine (PubChem CID: 2227); GF 109203X (PubChem CID: 2396); H-89 (PubChem CID: 449241); Ifenprodil (PubChem CID: 3689); Learning; MK-801 (PubChem CID: 180081); Memory; Morphine (PubChem CID: 5288826); N(G)-Nitro-l-arginine methyl ester (PubChem CID: 39836); Naloxone (PubChem CID: 5284596); Putrescine (PubChem CID: 1045); Rat; Spermidine; Spermidine (PubChem CID: 1102); Spermine; Spermine (PubChem CID: 1103); Traxoprodil (PubChem CID: 219101); dl-alpha-difluoromethylornithine (PubChem CID: 3009)

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