A method for the specific labeling of the active site of S-adenosylmethionine decarboxylase was developed. The method consisted of incubating cell extracts with 3H-decarboxylated S-adenosylmethionine and sodium cyanoborohydride in the presence of a spermidine synthase inhibitor. Under these conditions, S-adenosylmethionine decarboxylase was labeled specifically and stoichiometrically. This procedure was used (a) to establish that the subunit molecular weight of S-adenosylmethionine decarboxylase from rat liver, prostate, and psoas and from mouse SV-3T3 cells was 32000, (b) to titrate the number of active molecules of S-adenosylmethionine decarboxylase in various cell extracts, and (c) to provide a high specific activity labeled preparation of S-adenosylmethionine decarboxylase for use in radioimmunoassay of this enzyme. Competitive radioimmunoassays using this labeled antigen had a sensitivity such that 3 fmol (0.1 ng) of enzyme protein could be quantitated. The rapid loss of S-adenosylmethionine decarboxylase which occurred when SV-3T3 cells were exposed to exogenous polyamines was shown to be due to a rapid decline in the amount of enzyme protein measured both by titration of the active site and by radioimmunoassay.
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