Seven analogues of S-adenosyl-L-methionine were studied as inhibitors or substrates for mammalian spermidine and spermine synthases. One of these, S-(5'-deoxy-5'-adenosyl)-(α)-1-methyl-3-(methylthio)propylamine (5), showed a unique spectrum of activities on the polyamine biosynthesis enzymes. It was an inhibitor of S-adenosyl-L-methionine decarboxylase from rat liver and spermine synthase from bovine brain and rat ventral prostate. This compound was a substrate for the spermidine synthases from bovine brain and rat ventral prostate but not a substrate for the spermine synthases from these same sources. At concentrations of 0.2 mM and higher, compound 5 blocked the increases in polyamine levels and in [3 4H] thymidine incorporation induced by concanavalin A in cultured mouse lymphocytes. At approximately a 0.5 mM concentration of 5, the cellular polyamine levels and the rate of thymidine incorporation were similar to those of the unstimulated lymphocytes. Lower concentrations of 5 (0.02-0.1 mM) produced a dose-dependent increase in thymidine incorporation. A dose-dependent decrease in the cellular polyamine levels was observed in the range of 0.05-0.5 mM of the inhibitor. These results suggest that the effects of 5 on transformed lymphocytes are complex and may not be solely due to the inhibition of polyamine biosynthesis by this compound.