Changes in hepatic polyamine catabolism in elderly rats

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Given the important role of polyamines (putrescine, spermidine, spermine) in the modulation of macromolecular syntheses, gene expression and proteolysis, alterations in their metabolic pathways could be relevant during senescence. Since the few existing data address mainly polyamine biosynthesis, we studied the oxidative catabolism of polyamines in the liver of rats 3-36 months of age.


Polyamine oxidase activity was fluorimetrically measured using N1-acetylspermine as substrate. Spermidine/spermine N1-acetyltransferase and diamine oxidase were measured by radiochemical methods using labeled acetyl-coenzyme A and putrescine, respectively, as substrate. Polyamines were separated by HPLC and fluorimetrically quantified after post-column derivatization with o-phthaldialdehyde.


Spermidine/spermine N1-acetyltransferase activity increased in 36-month-old rats and polyamine oxidase activity in 24- and 36-month-old rats. A decline in spermine and increases in spermidine and putrescine in elderly rats suggested an activation of the interconversion pathway of higher into lower polyamines. The activity of diamine oxidase, which degrades putrescine, was enhanced starting from 12 months of age.


In the liver of aged rats, an increase in the catabolic enzymes leads to a reconversion of the higher polyamines to putrescine. This increased catabolism may represent an important age-related change and may contribute to impairment of the expression of growth-related genes in senescence.

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