Characterising the Response of Human Breast Cancer Cells to Polyamine Modulation

Oluwaseun Akinyele* (Corresponding Author), Heather M. Wallace

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
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Breast cancer is a complex heterogeneous disease with multiple underlying causes. The polyamines putrescine, spermidine, and spermine are polycationic molecules essential for cell proliferation. Their biosynthesis is upregulated in breast cancer and they contribute to disease progression. While elevated polyamines are linked to breast cancer cell proliferation, there is little evidence to suggest breast cancer cells of different hormone receptor status are equally dependent on polyamines. In this study, we characterized the responses of two breast cancer cells, ER+ (oestrogen receptor positive) MCF-7 and ER- MDA-MB-231 cell lines, to polyamine modulation and determined the requirement of each polyamine for cancer cell growth. The cells were exposed to DFMO (a polyamine pathway inhibitor) at various concentrations under different conditions, after which several growth parameters were determined. Exposure of both cell lines to DFMO induced differential growth responses, MCF-7 cells showed greater sensitivity to polyamine pathway inhibition at various DFMO concentrations than the MDA-MB-231 cells. Analysis of intracellular DFMO after withdrawal from growth medium showed residual DFMO in the cells with concomitant decreases in polyamine content, ODC protein level, and cell growth. Addition of exogenous polyamines reversed the cell growth inhibition, and this growth recovery appears to be partly dependent on the spermidine content of the cell. Similarly, DFMO exposure inhibits the global translation state of the cells, with spermidine addition reversing the inhibition of translation in the breast cancer cells. Taken together, these data suggest that breast cancer cells are differentially sensitive to the antitumour effects of polyamine depletion, thus, targeting polyamine metabolism might be therapeutically beneficial in breast cancer management based on their subtype.
Original languageEnglish
Article number743
Number of pages14
Issue number5
Early online date17 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - 17 May 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding: O.A. was funded by University of Aberdeen PhD Elphinstone Scholarship
Acknowledgments: We would like to thank Patrick Woster of Medical University of South.


  • polyamines
  • cell growth
  • beast cancer subtypes
  • DFMO


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