Leishmania donovani polyamine biosynthetic enzyme overproducers as tools to investigate the mode of action of cytotoxic polyamine analogs

Sigrid C. Roberts, Yuqui Jiang, Judith Gasteier, Benjamin Frydman, Laurence J. Marton, Olle Heby, Buddy Ullman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


A number of anticancer and antiparasitic drugs are postulated to target the polyamine biosynthetic pathway and polyamine function, but the exact mode of action of these compounds is still being elucidated. To establish whether polyamine analogs specifically target enzymes of the polyamine pathway, a model was developed using strains of the protozoan parasite Leishmania donovani that overproduce each of the polyamine biosynthetic enzymes. Promastigotes overexpressing episomal constructs encoding ornithine decarboxylase (ODC), S-adenosylmethionine decarboxylase (ADOMETDC), or spermidine synthase (SPDSYN) revealed robust overproduction of the corresponding polyamine biosynthetic enzyme. Polyamine pools, however, were either unchanged or only marginally affected, implying that regulatory mechanisms must exist. The ODC, ADOMETDC, and SPDSYN overproducer strains exhibited a high level of resistance to difluoromethylornithine, 5′-{[(Z)-4-amino-2-butenyl]methylamino}-5′- deoxyadenosine, and n-butylamine, respectively, confirming previous observations that these agents specifically target polyamine enzymes. Conversely, augmented levels of polyamine biosynthetic enzymes did not affect the sensitivity of L. donovani promastigotes to pentamidine, berenil, and mitoguazone, drugs that were postulated to target the polyamine pathway, implying alternative and/or additional targets for these agents. The sensitivities of wild-type and overproducing parasites to a variety of polyamine analogs were also tested. The polyamine enzyme-overproducing lines offer a rapid cell-based screen for assessing whether synthetic polyamine analogs exert their mechanism of action predominantly on the polyamine biosynthetic pathway in L. donovani. Furthermore, the drug resistance engendered by the amplification of target genes and the overproduction of the encoded protein offers a general strategy for evaluating and developing therapeutic agents that target specific proteins in Leishmania.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)438-445
Number of pages8
JournalAntimicrobial agents and chemotherapy
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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