Polyamines are positively charged small molecules ubiquitously existing in all living organisms, and they are considered as one kind of the most ancient cellular components. The most common polyamines are spermidine, spermine, and their precursor putrescine generated from ornithine. Polyamines play critical roles in cells by stabilizing chromatin structure, regulating DNA replication, modulating gene expression, etc., and they also affect the structure and function of proteins. A few studies have investigated the impact of polyamines on protein structure and function previously, but no reports have focused on a protein-based biological module with a dedicated function. In this report, we investigated the impact of polyamines (putrescine, spermidine, and spermine) on the cyanobacterial KaiABC circadian oscillator. Using an established in vitro reconstitution system, we noticed that polyamines could disrupt the robustness of the KaiABC oscillator by inducing the denaturation of the Kai proteins (KaiA, KaiB, and KaiC). Further experiments showed that the denaturation was likely due to the induced change of the thermal stability of the clock proteins. Our study revealed an intriguing role of polyamines as a component in complex cellular environments and would be of great importance for elucidating the biological function of polyamines in future.
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