Biosynthesis of polyamines and polyamine-containing molecules

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98 Scopus citations


Polyamines are evolutionarily ancient polycations derived from amino acids and are pervasive in all domains of life. They are essential for cell growth and proliferation in eukaryotes and are essential, important or dispensable for growth in bacteria. Polyamines present a useful scaffold to attach other moieties to, and are often incorporated into specialized metabolism. Life has evolved multiple pathways to synthesize polyamines, and structural variants of polyamines have evolved in bacteria, archaea and eukaryotes. Among the complex biosynthetic diversity, patterns of evolutionary reiteration can be distinguished, revealing evolutionary recycling of particular protein folds and enzyme chassis. The same enzyme activities have evolved from multiple protein folds, suggesting an inevitability of evolution of polyamine biosynthesis. This review discusses the different biosynthetic strategies used in life to produce diamines, triamines, tetra-amines and branched and long-chain polyamines. It also discusses the enzymes that incorporate polyamines into specialized metabolites and attempts to place polyamine biosynthesis in an evolutionary context.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2315-2329
Number of pages15
JournalBiochemical Journal
Issue number15
StatePublished - 2016


  • Biosynthetic diversity
  • Convergent evolution
  • Polyamine
  • Putrescine
  • Spermidine
  • Spermine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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