Polyamines are essential for cell growth and differentiation. In Xenopus early embryos, per embryo level of spermine is extremely low as compared with that of spermidine. To disclose the possible function of polyamines in Xenopus early embryos, we tested the effect of co-injection of spermine and spermidine on the functioning of exogenously microinjected in vitro-synthesized, Δβ-catenin mRNA which is known to induce a secondary head after being microinjected into a ventral vegetal blastomere in 8-celled Xenopus embryos. Microinjection of Δβ-catenin mRNA in fact induced a secondary axis with a secondary head, and co-injection of spermine or spermidine suppresses induction of the secondary head and secondary axis without drastic effects like induction of immediate cell death or execution of apoptosis at blastula stage. The inhibitory effects were dosage dependent, and at lower doses the inhibition was mainly on secondary head formation rather than on secondary axis formation. We performed similar experiments using GFP mRNA and confirmed that expression of GFP mRNA was also suppressed by co-injection of spermine. We mixed Δβ-catenin mRNA with different amounts of spermine and performed electrophoresis on agarose gels, with a finding that the prior mixing greatly suppressed mRNA migration. These results suggest that an excess amount of spermine as well as spermidine exerts inhibitory effects on mRNA translation, and that the inhibition may be due to direct binding of polyamines to mRNA and a reduction of negative charges on mRNA molecules that might also induce the formation of cross link-like networks among mRNAs.
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