New drugs are urgently needed for the treatment of tropical
and subtropical parasitic diseases, such as African sleeping
sickness, Chagas’ disease, leishmaniasis and malaria. Enzymes
in polyamine biosynthesis and thiol metabolism, as well as
polyamine transporters, are potential drug targets within these
organisms. In the present review, the current knowledge of unique
properties of polyamine metabolism in these parasites is outlined.
These properties include prozyme regulation of AdoMetDC (Sadenosylmethionine
decarboxylase) activity in trypanosomatids,
co-expression of ODC (ornithine decarboxylase) and AdoMetDC
activities in a single protein in plasmodia, and formation of
trypanothione, a unique compound linking polyamine and thiol
metabolism in trypanosomatids. Particularly interesting features
within polyamine metabolism in these parasites are highlighted
for their potential in selective therapeutic strategies.