Spermidine/spermine-N1-acetyltransferase: A key metabolic regulator

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Spermidine/spermine-N1-acetyltransferase (SSAT) regulates cellular polyamine content. Its acetylated products are either excreted from the cell or oxidized by acetylpolyamine oxidase. Since polyamines play critical roles in normal and neoplastic growth and in ion channel regulation, SSAT is a key enzyme in these processes. SSAT is very highly regulated. Its content is adjusted in response to alterations in polyamine content to maintain polyamine homeostasis. Certain polyamine analogs can mimic the induction of SSAT and cause a loss of normal polyamines. This may have utility in cancer chemotherapy. SSAT activity is also induced via a variety of other stimuli, including toxins, hormones, cytokines, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents, natural products, and stress pathways, and by ischemia-reperfusion injury. These increases are initiated by alterations in Sat1 gene transcription reinforced by alterations at the other regulatory steps, including protein turnover, mRNA processing, and translation. Transgenic manipulation of SSAT activity has revealed that SSAT activity links polyamine metabolism to lipid and carbohydrate metabolism by means of alterations in the content of acetyl-CoA and ATP. A high level of SSAT stimulates flux through the polyamine biosynthetic pathway, since biosynthetic enzymes are induced in response to the fall in polyamines. This sets up a futile cycle in which ATP is used to generate S-adenosylmethionine for polyamine biosynthesis and acetyl-CoA is consumed in the acetylation reaction. A variety of other effects of increased SSAT activity include death of pancreatic cells, blockage of regenerative tissue growth, behavioral changes, keratosis follicularis spinulosa decalvans, and hair loss. These are very likely due to changes in polyamine and putrescine levels, although increased oxidative stress via the oxidation of acetylated polyamines may also contribute. Recently, it was found that the SSAT protein and/or a related protein, thialysine acetyltransferase, interacts with a number of other important proteins, including the hypoxia-inducible factor-1 α-subunit, the p65 subunit of NF-κB, and α9β1-integrin, altering the function of these proteins. It is not yet clear whether this functional alteration involves protein acetylation, local polyamine concentration changes, or other effects. It has been suggested that SSAT may also be a useful target in diseases other than cancer, but the wide-ranging physiological and pathophysiological effects of altered SSAT expression will require very careful limitation of such strategies to the relevant cells to avoid toxic effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E995-E1010
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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