DL-alpha-Difluoromethylarginine (DFMA) is an enzyme-activated irreversible inhibitor of arginine decarboxylase (ADC) in vitro. DFMA has also been shown to inhibit ADC activities in a variety of plants and bacteria in vivo. However, we questioned the specificity of this inhibitor for ADC in tobacco ovary tissues, since ornithine decarboxylase (ODC) activity was strongly inhibited as well. We now show that [3,4-3H]DFMA is metabolized to DL-alpha-difluoromethyl[3,4-3H]ornithine [(3,4-3H]DFMO), the analogous mechanism-based inhibitor of ODC, by tobacco tissues in vivo. Both tobacco and mammalian (mouse, bovine) arginases (EC 220.127.116.11) hydrolyse DFMA to DFMO in vitro, suggesting a role for this enzyme in mediating the indirect inhibition of ODC by DFMA in tobacco. These results suggest that DFMA may have other effects, in addition to the inhibition of ADC, in tissues containing high arginase activities. The recent development of potent agmatine-based ADC inhibitors should permit selective inhibition of ADC, rather than ODC, in such tissues, since agmatine is not a substrate for arginase.
- © 1988 London: The Biochemical Society