Autophagy induction by exogenous polyamines is an artifact of bovine serum amine oxidase activity in culture serum

Cassandra E. Holbert, Matthew Dunworth, Jackson R. Foley, Tiffany T. Dunston, Tracy Murray Stewart, Robert A. Casero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Polyamines are small polycationic alkylamines involved in many fundamental cellular processes, including proliferation, nucleic acid synthesis, apoptosis, and protection from oxidative damage. It has been proposed that in addition to these functions, elevated levels of polyamines promote longevity in various biological systems, including yeast, Drosophila, and murine models. A series of in vitro mechanistic studies by multiple investigators has led to the conclusion that addition of exogenous spermidine promotes longevity through autophagy induction; however, these experiments were confounded by the use of mammalian cell culture systems supplemented with fetal bovine serum. Using cell viability assays, LC3B immunoblots, and live-cell fluorescence microscopy, we report here that in the presence of ruminant serum, exogenously added polyamines are quickly oxidized by the copper-containing bovine serum amine oxidase. This polyamine oxidation resulted in the production of harmful byproducts including hydrogen peroxide, ammonia, and reactive aldehydes. Our data demonstrate that it is critically important to prevent confounding bovine serum amine oxidase-induced cytotoxicity in mechanistic studies of the roles of polyamines in autophagy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9061-9068
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number27
StatePublished - Jul 3 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Autophagy induction by exogenous polyamines is an artifact of bovine serum amine oxidase activity in culture serum'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this