The polyamines putrescine, spermine, and spermidine, present in all living cells, have been implicated in the replication of some herpesviruses and retroviruses, and elevated levels of these polyamines have been found in the lymphocytes of patients infected with HIV-1. We have examined the effect of HIV-1 infection on polyamine pools in cell culture. HIV-1 did not significantly affect the polyamine pools in CEM cells. Consistent with this observation, inhibitors of the two key enzymes of this pathway, ornithine decarboxylase and S-adenosylmethionine decarboxylase, did not prevent viral-induced cytopathic effects (CPE) in this cell line. Our results indicate that inhibitors of this pathway will not be therapeutically useful in the treatment of AIDS.