The naturally occurring polyamines, spermine [NH2(CH2)3NH(CH2)4NH(CH2)3NH2] and spermidine [NH2(CH2)3NH(CH2)4NH2], as well as the diamine putrescine [NH2(CH2)4NH2], are widely spread in nature. They occur in plants, micro-organisms and animal tissues and fulfil many important physiological functions. Due to their cationic nature they interact with negatively charged macromolecules such nucleic acids, phospholipids and proteins. This ionic interaction, which is reversible, leads to the stabilization of DNA, tRNA, membranes and some proteins. Early studies demonstrated that polyamines stimulate the growth of pro- and eukaryotic cells and that they play an important role in carcinogenesis and in malignant transformation processes. As a result of these studies various inhibitors of polyamine biosynthesis have been synthesized and are used to combat cancer and parasitic diseases (e.g., African sleeping sickness).
Keywords: Polyamines, spermine, spermidine, nucleic acids, hypusine, transglutaminases, signal transduction, protein kinases, oncogenes, initiation factors
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