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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1998 Sep 15;95(19):11140-5.

The natural polyamine spermine functions directly as a free radical scavenger.

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Department of Oncology, The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21231, USA.


The polyamines are small organic cations that are absolutely required for eukaryotic cell growth. Although their growth requirements are well established, the molecular functions of the polyamines are ill-defined. Oxidative damage to DNA by reactive oxygen species is a continual problem that cells must guard against to survive. The polyamine spermine, which is normally found in millimolar concentrations in the nucleus, is shown here to function directly as a free radical scavenger, and adducts formed as a result of this function are identified. These data suggest that spermine is a major natural intracellular compound capable of protecting DNA from free radical attack.

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