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Polyamine metabolism in brain tumours: diagnostic relevance of quantitative biochemistry
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Abstract

OBJECTIVE Activation of polyamine metabolism is closely associated with cellular proliferation. The purpose was to investigate whether the content of the polyamines putrescine, spermidine, and spermine, and the activity of the first metabolic key enzyme of polyamine metabolism, ornithine decarboxylase (ODC), represent biochemical markers of malignancy in brain tumours.

METHODS The concentration of putrescine, spermidine, and spermine, and the activity of ODC were biochemically quantified in tissue samples obtained during open microsurgery of 670 patients with brain tumours. Biochemical analysis and histopathological classification were carried out in serial tumour samples.

RESULTS The activity of ODC was very low in peritumorous non-neoplastic brain tissue (0.9 (SD 0.6) nmol/g/h). It was significantly higher in gliomas and it significantly increased with a higher grade of malignancy (grade I 2.7 (2.8) nmol/g/h, grade II 3.1 (4.0) nmol/g/h, grade III 5.7 (5.6) nmol/g/h, grade IV 10.6 (11.7) nmol/g/h). High enzyme activity was also found in medulloblastomas (25.5 (15.1) nmol/g/h), malignant lymphomas (52.1 (42.1) nmol/g/h), and metastases from carcinoma (14.9 (22.1) nmol/g/h). Lowest values were measured in epidermoid cysts (0.5 (0.2) nmol/g/h), craniopharyngiomas (1.2 (0.9) nmol/g/h), angioblastomas (1.6 (1.7) nmol/g/h), and neurinomas (2.0 (1.8) nmol/g/h). By contrast with ODC activity, polyamine concentrations did not correlate with the grade of malignancy. Correlation of regional biochemical and histomorphological data in rapidly growing neoplasms showed high enzyme activity in solid tumour parts and low activity in necrotic areas.

CONCLUSIONS Novel data relating ODC activation and polyamine concentrations to neuropathology is presented indicating that high ODC activity represents a biochemical marker of malignancy in brain tumours. This information is important for clinical and therapeutic investigations.

  • polyamines
  • ornithine decarboxylase (ODC)
  • brain tumour
  • malignancy

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