To sustain growth and support metabolic requirements, mammals assimilate energy-producing molecules and nutrients from food. These molecules are distributed throughout the body in order to meet the requirements of the internal organs. The various demands of the different organs are to a large extent met by regulatory processes consisting of a complex interaction between hormones, growth factors and cytokines. Normal metabolic activity and partitioning of nutrients between individual organs is affected by a number of events such as stress, a limited supply of nutrients, infection or tumour growth. Since the intestine has the highest metabolic activity of all the internal organs, a tumour will initially compete with the gut for nutrients and energy-providing molecules. The polyamines represent a class of molecules where the demand in the body increases during tumour growth. A tumour can partly obtain the polyamines required to support its growth by up-regulating its own biosynthetic capacity and partly by increasing uptake from the body pool. Rather than limiting the exogenous supply of dietary polyamines we have used another approach to manipulate polyamine pools in mice. When the lectin phytohaemagglutinin is included in the diet, a fully reversible dose-dependent growth of the small intestine occurs leading to an extensive accumulation of polyamines in the intestinal epithelia. This approach of reducing the availability of exogenous polyamines to a growing tumour will be discussed.

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