Polyamines are essential metabolites found in all organisms. Intracellular polyamine levels are tightly maintained by biosynthesis, degradation, uptake and excretion processes that involve regulatory mechanisms – such as the antizyme inhibitory protein – that are conserved across the kingdoms of life, indicating that polyamine levels are critical to cell function. Nonetheless, the biochemical roles of polyamines and their involvement in numerous fundamental cellular processes including aging, cell cycle progression and growth only become apparent when polyamine homeostasis is perturbed. Thus, while polyamines are present in most cells and essential for cell growth, their biochemical functions are largely enigmatic. Studies in fungi have contributed to our basic understanding of polyamines, and might continue to bridge knowledge gaps regarding polyamine metabolism and cell function. Moreover, when considering the impact of fungi – directly or indirectly, for good or for ill – on human society, closing gaps in our understanding of polyamine functions in fungal physiology is an important goal in itself that might lead to the discovery of new targets for enhancing beneficial fungal interactions and diminishing those detrimental to crop and human health. To facilitate progress towards this prospect, here we appraise what is known about polyamine metabolism in fungi, how prevalent polyamines impact fungal physiology and metabolism, and how the levels of each polyamine are maintained in the fungal cell – thus pointing to how they might be perturbed.
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