•AZIN2, unlike ornithine decarboxylase, exists as a monomer in solution.•Conserved residues among AZIN2 orthologs are critical for the binding to antizymes (AZs).•Substitution of the conserved residues affects the ability of AZIN2 to modulate polyamine levels.•AZIN2 and AZs are extremely labile proteins, which mutually stabilize each other.•Other proteolytic systems, besides the 26S proteasome, might be involved in AZIN2 degradation.
Ornithine decarboxylase (ODC) is the key enzyme in the polyamine biosynthetic pathway. ODC levels are controlled by polyamines through the induction of antizymes (AZs), small proteins that inhibit ODC and target it to proteasomal degradation without ubiquitination. Antizyme inhibitors (AZIN1 and AZIN2) are proteins homologous to ODC that bind to AZs and counteract their negative effect on ODC. Whereas ODC and AZIN1 are well-characterized proteins, little is known on the structure and stability of AZIN2, the lastly discovered member of this regulatory circuit. In this work we first analyzed structural aspects of AZIN2 by combining biochemical and computational approaches. We demonstrated that AZIN2, in contrast to ODC, does not form homodimers, although the predicted tertiary structure of the AZIN2 monomer was similar to that of ODC. Furthermore, we identified conserved residues in the antizyme-binding element, whose substitution drastically affected the capacity of AZIN2 to bind AZ1. On the other hand, we also found that AZIN2 is much more labile than ODC, but it is highly stabilized by its binding to AZs. Interestingly, the administration of the proteasome inhibitor MG132 caused differential effects on the three AZ-binding proteins, having no effect on ODC, preventing the degradation of AZIN1, but unexpectedly increasing the degradation of AZIN2. Inhibitors of the lysosomal function partially prevented the effect of MG132 on AZIN2. These results suggest that the degradation of AZIN2 could be also mediated by an alternative route to that of proteasome. These findings provide new relevant information on this unique regulatory mechanism of polyamine metabolism.