A molecular-genetic approach towards isolating mammalian polyamine-transport genes and their encoded proteins was devised involving the production of Chinese-hamster ovary (CHO) cells expressing a human polyamine-transport protein. CHO cells and a polyamine-transport-deficient CHO mutant cell line (CHOMG) were equally sensitive to the antiproliferative effects of alpha-difluoromethylornithine (DFMO), which blocked endogenous polyamine synthesis. Exposure to exogenous polyamines increased intracellular polyamine levels and reversed this DFMO-induced cytostasis in the CHO cells, but not in the CHOMG cells. CHOMG cells were therefore transfected with human DNA (isolated from HT-29 colon carcinoma cells) and cells expressing the human polyamine-transport system were identified by the ability of these cells to grow in a medium containing DFMO and polyamines. A number of different positive clones were identified and shown to have the capacity for polyamine uptake and an increased sensitivity to the toxic effects of the polyamine analogue methylglyoxal bis(guanylhydrazone). Differences in these properties between the clones are consistent with a multiplicity of polyamine-transport systems. Some clones also showed a change in growth characteristics, which may indicate a relationship between genes involved in the polyamine-transport system and in cell proliferation.

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