AskDefine | Define putrescine

Dictionary Definition

putrescine n : a colorless crystalline ptomaine with a foul odor that is produced in decaying animal matter

User Contributed Dictionary


Alternative spellings


  1. A diamine, NH2(CH2)4NH2 (1,4-diaminobutane or butanediamine). It is produced by the breakdown of amino acids in living and dead organisms.

Extensive Definition

Putrescine (sometimes spelled putrescin or putrescene) is an organic chemical compound NH2(CH2)4NH2 (1,4-diaminobutane or butanediamine). It is related to cadaverine; both are produced by the breakdown of amino acids in living and dead organisms and both are toxic substances. The two compounds are largely responsible for the foul odor of putrefying flesh, but also contribute to the odor of such processes as bad breath and bacterial vaginosis. They are also found in semen and some microalgae, together with related molecules like spermine and spermidine.

Production and use

Putrescine is produced on industrial scale by hydrogenation of succinonitrile, which is produced by addition of hydrogen cyanide to acrylonitrile. Putrescine is reacted with adipic acid to yield the polyamide Nylon-4,6, which is marketed by DSM under the trade name Stanyl.


Putrescine attacks s-adenosyl methionine and converts it to spermidine. Spermidine in turn attacks another s-adenosyl methionine and converts it to spermine.
Putrescine is synthesized in small quantities by healthy living cells by the action of ornithine decarboxylase. The polyamines, of which putrescine is one of the simplest, appear to be growth factors necessary for cell division.


Putrescine and cadaverine were first described by the Berlin physician Ludwig Brieger in 1885.

Cultural references

Putrescine is featured as a non-lethal weapon in the science fiction novel Zodiac, by Neal Stephenson. Its use is also suggested as a practical joke in an episode of Dinosaur Comics.



putrescine in Czech: Putrescin
putrescine in German: Putrescin
putrescine in Spanish: Putrescina
putrescine in French: Putrescine
putrescine in Italian: Putresceina
putrescine in Japanese: プトレシン
putrescine in Polish: Putrescyna
putrescine in Portuguese: Putrescina
putrescine in Russian: Путресцин
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