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As obligate intracellular parasites, viruses rely on host cells for the building blocks of progeny viruses. Metabolites such as amino acids, nucleotides, and lipids are central to viral proteins, genomes, and envelopes, and the availability of these molecules can restrict or promote infection. Polyamines, comprised of putrescine, spermidine, and spermine in mammalian cells, are also critical for virus infection. Polyamines are small, positively charged molecules that function in transcription, translation, and cell cycling. Initial work on the function of polyamines in bacteriophage infection illuminated these molecules as critical to virus infection. In the decades since early virus-polyamine descriptions, work on diverse viruses continues to highlight a role for polyamines in viral processes, including genome packaging and viral enzymatic activity. On the host side, polyamines function in the response to virus infection. Thus, viruses and hosts compete for polyamines, which are a critical resource for both. Pharmacologically targeting polyamines, tipping the balance to favor the host and restrict virus replication, holds significant promise as a broad-spectrum antiviral strategy.


Mason R Firpo, Bryan C Mounce. Diverse Functions of Polyamines in Virus Infection. Biomolecules. 2020 Apr 18;10(4)

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PMID: 32325677

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