Polyamine function in archaea and bacteria

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71 Scopus citations


Most of the phylogenetic diversity of life is found in bacteria and archaea, and is reflected in the diverse metabolism and functions of bacterial and archaeal polyamines. The polyamine spermidine was probably present in the last universal common ancestor, and polyamines are known to be necessary for critical physiological functions in bacteria, such as growth, biofilm formation, and other surface behaviors, and production of natural products, such as siderophores. There is also phylogenetic diversity of function, indicated by the role of polyamines in planktonic growth of different species, ranging from absolutely essential to entirely dispensable. However, the cellular molecular mechanisms responsible for polyamine function in bacterial growth are almost entirely unknown. In contrast, the molecular mechanisms of essential polyamine functions in archaea are better understood: covalent modification by polyamines of translation factor aIF5A and the agmatine modification of tRNAIle. As with bacterial hyperthermophiles, archaeal thermophiles require long-chain and branched polyamines for growth at high temperatures. For bacterial species in which polyamines are essential for growth, it is still unknown whether the molecular mechanisms underpinning polyamine function involve covalent or noncovalent interactions. Understanding the cellular molecular mechanisms of polyamine function in bacterial growth and physiology remains one of the great challenges for future polyamine research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18693-18701
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number48
StatePublished - Nov 30 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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