Polyamine depletion delays apoptosis of rat intestinal epithelial cells

R M Ray, M J Viar, Q Yuan, L R Johnson
American Journal of Physiology. Cell Physiology 2000, 278 (3): C480-9
The polyamines spermidine, spermine, and their precursor putrescine are essential for cell growth and the regulation of the cell cycle. Recent studies suggest that excessive accumulation of polyamines favors either malignant transformation or apoptosis, depending on the cell type and the stimulus. This study examines the involvement of polyamines in the induction of apoptosis by the DNA topoisomerase I inhibitor, camptothecin. In IEC-6 cells, camptothecin induced apoptosis within 6 h, accompanied by detachment of cells. Detached cells showed DNA laddering and caspase 3 induction, characteristic features of apoptosis. Depletion of putrescine, spermidine, and spermine by DL-alpha-difluoromethylornithine (DFMO), a specific inhibitor of ornithine decarboxylase (ODC) that is the first rate-limiting enzyme for polyamine biosynthesis, decreased the apoptotic index. Delayed apoptosis was accompanied by a decrease in caspase 3 activity in polyamine-depleted cells. Addition of putrescine restored the induction of apoptosis as indicated by an increase in the number of detached cells and caspase 3 activity. Polyamine depletion did not change the level of caspase 3 protein. Inhibition of S-adenosylmethionine decarboxylase by a specific inhibitor [diethylglyoxal bis-(guanylhydrazone); DEGBG] led to depletion of spermidine and spermine with a significant accumulation of putrescine and induction of ODC. The DEGBG-treated cells showed an increase in apoptosis, suggesting the importance of putrescine in the apoptotic process. Addition of putrescine to DFMO-treated cell extracts did not increase caspase 3 activity. The above results indicate that polyamine depletion delays the onset of apoptosis in IEC-6 cells and confers protection against DNA damaging agents, suggesting that polyamines might be involved in the caspase activating signal cascade.

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