Estradiol control of ornithine decarboxylase mRNA, enzyme activity, and polyamine levels in MCF-7 breast cancer cells: therapeutic implications

T Thomas, T J Thomas
Breast Cancer Research and Treatment 1994, 29 (2): 189-201
Previous studies have shown that natural polyamines-putrescine, spermidine, and spermine-play a key role in the mechanism of action of estrogens in breast cancer. Ornithine decarboxylase (ODC) is the first enzyme of the polyamine biosynthetic pathway. To examine estrogenic regulation of polyamine biosynthesis in breast cancer, we measured ODC mRNA, ODC activity, and polyamine levels in G1 synchronized MCF-7 cells. ODC mRNA and activity increased four-fold over that of cells in G1 phase between 8 to 16 h after the addition of estradiol. Polyamine levels showed a sharp increase by 8 h after the addition of estradiol and decreased by 12 h. We further examined whether synthetic homologs of putrescine or spermidine could replace natural polyamines in supporting MCF-7 cell growth. Treatment of MCF-7 cells with 1 mM difluoromethylornithine (DFMO), an inhibitor of ODC, suppressed putrescine, spermidine, and spermine levels by 74, 78, and 10%, respectively, within 48 h. Cells treated with DFMO for 48 h were supplemented with either putrescine or its homologs or spermidine or its homologs. Diaminopropane, diaminobutane (putrescine), and diaminopentane were capable of fully or partially reversing the growth inhibitory effects of DFMO, whereas diaminoethane had no significant effect. Among a series of triamines, H2N(CH2)nNH(CH2)3NH2 (where n = 2 to 8; abbreviated as APn n = 4 for spermidine, or AP4), spermidine was most effective in reversing the effects of DFMO, whereas compounds with shorter or longer methylene bridging regions were less effective. AP8 was ineffective in reversing the growth inhibitory effects of DFMO. At 10 microM concentration, AP8 also inhibited DNA synthesis by 66%, as measured by [3H]-thymidine incorporation. These data show that MCF-7 cells have a strong requirement for polyamines for their growth and that estradiol stimulates the polyamine cascade by inducing the ODC mRNA level. Our results also suggest that polyamine homologs such as AP8 might be potentially useful in breast cancer therapy.

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