Polyamine Homeostasis in Transgenic Plants Overexpressing Ornithine Decarboxylase Includes Ornithine Limitation

Melinda J. Mayer, Anthony J. Michael

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


It was reported recently that overexpression of human ornithine decarboxylase (ODC) cDNA in transgenic rice plants resulted in increased steady-state concentration of polyamines, i.e., enough biosynthetic control is invested at this step to enable adjustment of polyamine levels. To investigate critically whether constitutive overexpression of ODC is sufficient to control steady-state polyamine levels, we expressed an ODC cDNA from Datura stramonium in transgenic tobacco plants. Transgenic progeny of self-fertilised primary transformants exhibited increases in ODC activity of 25-fold in leaves and 5-fold in flower buds. However, the increase in putrescine levels was only 1.5- to 2.1-fold in leaves and 1.1- to 1.3-fold in flower buds. Emphatically, no changes to spermidine or spermine steady-state levels or to soluble or insoluble hydroxycinnamic acid-conjugated polyamines were observed. Ornithine feeding to cell suspension cultures derived from the transgenic plants indicated that putrescine accumulation was limited in part by ornithine availability. These results demonstrate that a large increase in the capacity of the tobacco plants to decarboxylate ornithine does not result in a comparable increase in the level of free or conjugated polyamines. Plant polyamine homeostatic mechanisms efficiently accommodate increased ODC activity, suggesting that polyamine biosynthetic control is invested at multiple interdependent steps.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)765-772
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Biochemistry
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2003


  • Arginine decarboxylase
  • Hydroxycinnamic amide
  • Ornithine decarboxylase
  • Polyamine
  • Putrescine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology


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