Functional polyamine metabolic enzymes and pathways encoded by the virosphere

Bin Li, Jue Liang, Hamid R. Baniasadi, Margaret A. Phillips, Anthony J Michael

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Viruses produce more viruses by manipulating the metabolic and replication systems of their host cells. Many have acquired metabolic genes from ancestral hosts and use the encoded enzymes to subvert host metabolism. The polyamine spermidine is required for bacteriophage and eukaryotic virus replication, and herein, we have identified and functionally characterized diverse phage- and virus-encoded polyamine metabolic enzymes and pathways. These include pyridoxal 5-phosphate (PLP)-dependent ornithine decarboxylase (ODC), pyruvoyl-dependent ODC and arginine decarboxylase (ADC), arginase, S-adenosylmethionine decarboxylase (AdoMetDC/speD), spermidine synthase, homospermidine synthase, spermidine N-acetyltransferase, and N-acetylspermidine amidohydrolase. We identified homologs of the spermidine-modified translation factor eIF5a encoded by giant viruses of the Imitervirales. Although AdoMetDC/speD is prevalent among marine phages, some homologs have lost AdoMetDC activity and have evolved into pyruvoyl-dependent ADC or ODC. The pelagiphages that encode the pyruvoyl-dependent ADCs infect the abundant ocean bacterium Candidatus Pelagibacter ubique, which we have found encodes a PLP-dependent ODC homolog that has evolved into an ADC, indicating that infected cells would contain both PLP- and pyruvoyl-dependent ADCs. Complete or partial spermidine or homospermidine biosynthetic pathways are found encoded in the giant viruses of the Algavirales and Imitervirales, and in addition, some viruses of the Imitervirales can release spermidine from the inactive N-acetylspermidine. In contrast, diverse phages encode spermidine N-acetyltransferase that can sequester spermidine into its inactive N-acetyl form. Together, the virome-encoded enzymes and pathways for biosynthesis and release or biochemical sequestration of spermidine or its structural analog homospermidine consolidate and expand evidence supporting an important and global role of spermidine in virus biology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2214165120
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number9
StatePublished - Feb 28 2023


  • bacteriophage
  • polyamine
  • putrescine
  • spermidine
  • virus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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