Derivatives of glyoxal bis(guanylhydrazone) (GBG), such as methylglyoxal bis(guanylhydrazone) and ethylglyoxal bis(guanylhydrazone), are potent inhibitors of S-adenosylmethionine decarboxylase (EC 4.1.1.50), the key enzyme required for the synthesis of spermidine and spermine. These compounds, but not the parent compound, induce a massive accumulation of putrescine, partly by blocking the conversion of putrescine into spermidine, but also by strikingly stimulating ornithine decarboxylase (ODC; EC 4.1.1.17) activity. The mechanism of the stimulation of ODC activity and enhanced accumulation of the enzyme protein apparently involved a distinct stabilization of the enzyme against intracellular degradation. However, although the parent compound GBG also stabilized ODC, it powerfully inhibited the enzyme activity and the accumulation of immunoreactive protein in cultured L1210 leukaemia cells. Kinetic considerations indicated that, in addition to the stabilization, all three compounds, GBG in particular, inhibited the expression of ODC. It is unlikely that the decreased rate of synthesis of ODC was attributable to almost unaltered amounts of mRNA in drug-treated cells, thus supporting the view that especially GBG apparently depressed the expression of ODC at some post-transcriptional level.

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