The induction of polyamine catabolism by specific anti-tumour polyamine analogues has increased interest in the roles polyamine catabolism play in cell growth, death and response to various anti-tumour agents. The relatively recent finding of an inducible mammalian spermine oxidase (SMO/PAOh1), in addition to the two-step spermidine/spermine N 1 -acetyltransferanse (SSAT)/ N 1 -acetylpolyamine oxidase (APAO) catabolic pathway, underscores the complexities of the regulation of polyamine catabolism by various stimuli. Furthermore, recent data indicate that infectious agents and mediators of inflammation can also up-regulate polyamine catabolism. Induction of SSAT by these agents can reduce intracellular polyamine concentrations and cell growth rate, thus providing a beneficial mechanism by which cells may adapt to inflammatory stress. However, increased polyamine catabolism can also result in substantial increases in intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) through the production of H 2 O 2 as a by-product of either APAO or SMO/PAOh1 activity. This increased generation of ROS can have different results, depending on the mechanism of induction and cell types involved. Targeted killing of tumour cells by agents that stimulate SSAT/APAO and/or SMO/PAOh1 is obviously a ‘good’ effect. However, induction of SMO/PAOh1 by inflammation or infectious agents has the potential to produce sufficient ROS in normal, non-tumour cells to lead to DNA damage, mutation and, potentially, carcinogenic transformation (‘bad’). The variation in the induction of these polyamine catabolic enzymes, as well as the level and timing of this induction will dictate the cellular outcome in the presence of both desirable and undesirable effects (‘ugly’). Here we discuss the relative role of each of the steps in polyamine catabolism in response to inflammatory stress.
The polyamines putrescine, spermidine and spermine are ubiquitous polycationic compounds that are found in nearly every cell type, and are required to support a wide variety of cellular functions. The existence of multiple cellular effector sites for naturally occurring polyamines implies that there are numerous targets for polyamine-based therapeutic agents. Through a programme aimed at the synthesis and evaluation of biologically active polyamine analogues, our laboratory has identified three distinct structural classes of polyamine derivatives that exhibit promising biological activity in vitro . We have synthesized more than 200 symmetrically and unsymmetrically substituted alkylpolyamines that possess potent antitumour or antiparasitic activity, depending on their backbone architecture and terminal alkyl substituents. Along similar lines, we have developed novel polyamino(bis)guanidines and polyaminobiguanides that are promising antitrypanosomal agents and that interfere with biofilm formation in the pathogenic bacterium Yersinia pestis . Finally, we recently reported a series of PAHAs (polyaminohydroxamic acids) and PABAs (polyaminobenzamides) that inhibit HDACs (histone deacetylases), and in some cases are selective for individual HDAC isoforms. These studies support the hypothesis that polyamine-based small molecules can be developed for use as biochemical probes and as potential therapies for multiple diseases.
Interest in polyamine catabolism has increased since it has been directly associated with the cytotoxic response of multiple tumour types to exposure to specific anti-tumour polyamine analogues. Human polyamine catabolism was considered to be a two-step pathway regulated by the rate-limiting enzyme spermidine/spermine N 1 -acetyltransferase (SSAT) that provides substrate for an acetylpolyamine oxidase (APAO). Further, the super-induction of SSAT by several anti-tumour polyamine analogues has been implicated in the cytotoxic response of specific solid-tumour phenotypes to these agents. This high induction of SSAT has been correlated with cellular response to the anti-tumour polyamine analogues in several systems and considerable progress has been made in understanding the molecular mechanisms that regulate the analogue-induced expression of SSAT. A polyamine response element has been identified and the transacting transcription factors that bind and stimulate transcription of SSAT have been cloned and characterized. The link between SSAT activity and cellular toxicity is thought to be based on the production of H 2 O 2 by the activity of the constitutive APAO that uses the SSAT-produced acetylated polyamines. The high induction of SSAT and the subsequent activity of APAO are linked to the cytotoxic response of some tumour cell types to specific polyamine analogues. However, we have recently cloned a variably spliced human polyamine oxidase (PAOh1) that is inducible by specific polyamine analogues, efficiently uses unacetylated spermine as a substrate, and also produces toxic H 2 O 2 as a product. The results of studies with PAOh1 suggest that it is an additional enzyme in polyamine catabolism that has the potential to significantly contribute to polyamine homoeostasis and drug response. Most importantly, PAOh1 is induced by specific polyamine analogues in a tumour-phenotype-specific manner in cell lines representative of the major forms of solid tumours, including lung, breast, colon and prostate. The sensitivity to these anti-tumour polyamine analogues can be significantly reduced if the tumour cells are co-treated with 250 μM of the polyamine oxidase inhibitor N 1 , N 4 -bis(2,3-butadienyl)-1,4-butanediamine (MDL 72,527), suggesting that the H 2 O 2 produced by PAOh1 does in fact play a direct role in the observed cytotoxicity. These results strongly implicate PAOh1 as a new target that, in combination with SSAT, may be exploited for therapeutic advantage. The current understanding of the role and regulation of these two important polyamine catabolic enzymes are discussed.