1. A number of compounds known to inhibit polyamine biosynthesis at various steps in the biosynthetic pathway were tested for their ability to inhibit growth and decrease polyamine concentrations in virally transformed mouse fibroblasts (SV-3T3 cells). 2. Virtually complete inhibition of growth was produced by the inhibitors of ornithine decarboxylase α-methylornithine and α-difluoromethylornithine and by the inhibitors of S-adenosylmethionine decarboxylase 1,1′-[(methylethanediylidene)dinitrilo]diguanidine and 1,1′-[(methylethanediylidene)dinitrilo]bis-(3-aminoguanidine). The former inhibitors decreased putrescine and spermidine contents in the cells to very low values, whereas the latter substantially increased putrescine but decreased spermidine concentrations. The inhibitory effects of all of these inhibitors on cell growth could be prevented by the addition of spermidine, suggesting that spermidine depletion is the underlying cause of their inhibition of growth. 3. α-Difluoromethylornithine, which is an irreversible inhibitor of ornithine decarboxylase, was a more potent inhibitor of growth and polyamine production (depleting spermidine almost completely and spermine significantly) than α-methylornithine, which is a competitive inhibitor. This was not the case with the inhibitors of S-adenosylmethionine decarboxylase where 1,1′-[(methylethanediylidene)dinitrilo]diguanidine, a reversible inhibitor, was more active than 1,1′-[(methylethanediylidene)dinitrilo]bis-(3-aminoguanidine), an irreversible inhibitor. It is suggested that this effect may be due to the lesser uptake and/or greater chemical reactivity of the latter compound. 4. Various nucleoside derivatives of S-adenosylhomocysteine that inhibited spermidine synthase in vitro did not have significant inhibitory action against polyamine accumulation in the cell. These compounds, which included S-adenosylhomocysteine sulphone, decarboxylated S-adenosylhomocysteine sulphone, decarboxylated S-adenosylhomocysteine sulphoxide and S-adenosyl-4-thio-butyric acid sulphone did not inhibit cell growth or polyamine content until cytotoxic concentrations were added. 5. 5′-Methylthioadenosine, 5′-isobutylthioadenosine and 5′-methylthiotubercidin, which inhibit aminopropyltransferase activity in vitro, all inhibited cell growth and decreased spermidine content. Although these compounds were most active against spermine synthase in vitro, they acted in the cell primarily to decrease spermidine content. Cell growth could not be restored to normal values by addition of spermidine, suggesting that these nucleosides have another inhibitory action towards cellular proliferation. 6. 5′-Methylthioadenosine and 5′-isobutylthioadenosine are degraded by a phosphorylase present in SV3T3 cells, yielding 5-methylthioribose-1-phosphate and 5-isobutylthioribose-1-phosphate respectively, and adenine. This degradation appears to decrease the inhibitory action towards cell growth, suggesting that the nucleosides themselves are exerting the inhibitory action. 5′-Methylthiotubercidin, which is not a substrate for the phosphorylase and is a competitive inhibitor of it, was the most active of these nucleosides in inhibiting cell growth and spermidine content. 5′-Methylthiotubercidin and α-difluoromethylornithine had additive effects on retarding cell growth, but not on cellular spermine accumulation, also suggesting that the primary growth-inhibiting action of the nucleoside was not on polyamine production. 7. These results support the concept that 5′-methylthioadenosine phosphorylase plays an important role in permitting cell growth to continue by preventing the build-up of inhibitory intracellular concentrations of 5′-methylthioadenosine.

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