Polyamines are small cationic molecules necessary for growth and differentiation in all cells. Although mammalian cells have been studied extensively, particularly as targets of polyamine antagonists, i.e. antitumor agents, polyamine metabolism has also been studied as a potential drug target in microorganisms. Since little is known concerning polyamine metabolism in the microsporidia, we investigated it in Encephalitozoon cuniculi, a microspordian associated with disseminated infections in humans. Organisms were grown in RK-13 cells and harvested using Percoll gradients. Electron microscopy indicated that the fractions banding at 1.051–1.059/g/ml in a microgradient procedure, and 1.102–1.119/g/ml in a scaled-up procedure were nearly homogenous, consisting of pre-emergent (immature) spores which showed large arrays of ribosomes near polar filament coils. Intact purified pre-emergent spores incubated with [3H] ornithine and methionine synthesized putrescine, spermidine, and spermine, while [14C]spermine was converted to spermidine and putrescine. Polyamine production from ornithine was inhibitable by DL-α-difluoromethylornithine (DFMO) but not by DL-α-difluoromethylarginine (DFMA). Cell-free extracts from mature spores released into the growth media had ornithine decarboxylase (ODC), S-adenosylmethionine decarboxylase (AdoMetdc), and spermidine/spermine N1-acetyltransferase (SSAT) activities. ODC activity was inhibited by DFMO, but not by DFMA. AdoMetdc was putrescine-stimulated and inhibited by methylglyoxal-bis(guanylhydrazone); arginine decarboxylase activity could not be detected. It is apparent from these studies that Encephalitozoon cuniculi pre-emergent spores have a eukaryotic-type polyamine biosynthetic pathway and can interconvert exogenous polyamines. Pre-emergent spores were metabolically active with respect to polyamine synthesis and interconversion, while intact mature spores harvested from culture supernatants had little metabolic activity.
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Vol. 48 • No. 3