Ornithine decarboxylase (ODC), the lead enzyme in polyamine biosynthesis, was partially purified from Trichomonas vaginalis and its kinetic properties were studied. The enzyme appears to be of special significance in this anaerobic parasite, since the arginine dihydrolase pathway generates ATP as well as putrescine from arginine. ODC from T. vaginalis had a broad substrate specificity, decarboxylating ornithine (100%), lysine (1.0%) and arginine (0.1%). The enzyme had a pH optimum of 6.5, a temperature optimum of 37 degrees C and was pyridoxal 5′-phosphate-dependent. Attempts to separate ornithine- from lysine-decarboxylating activity by thermal-stability and pH-optima curves were not successful. Although Km values for ornithine and lysine were 109 and 91 microM respectively, and the Vmax values for these substrates were 1282 and 13 nmol/min per mg of protein respectively, the most important intracellular substrate is ornithine, since intracellular ornithine levels are 3.5 times those of lysine and extracellular putrescine levels are 7.5 times those of cadaverine. Ornithine was also an effective inhibitor of lysine-decarboxylating activity (Ki 150 microM), whereas lysine was relatively ineffective as inhibitor of ornithine-decarboxylating activity (Ki 14.5 mM). Crude ODC activity was localized (86%) in the 43,000 g supernatant and 3303-fold purification was obtained by (NH4)2SO4 salting and DEAE-Sephacel, agarose-gel and hydroxyapatite chromatography steps. The enzyme bound difluoro[3H]methylornithine ([3H]DFMO) with a ratio of drug bound to activity of 2500 fmol/unit, where 1 unit corresponds to 1 nmol of CO2 released from ornithine/min. The enzyme had a native M(r) of 210000 (gel filtration), with a subunit M(r) of 55,000 (by SDS/PAGE), suggesting that the trichomonad enzyme is a tetramer. From the subunit M(r) and binding ratio of DFMO, there is about 137 ng of ODC per mg of T. vaginalis protein (0.013%). The significant amount of ODC protein present supports the view that putrescine synthesis in T. vaginalis plays an important role in the metabolism of the parasite.

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