L1210 cells were selected for resistance to the ornithine decarboxylase (ODC) inhibitor, alpha-difluoromethylornithine. When grown in the absence of the inhibitor, these cells possessed very high ornithine decarboxylase levels. These represented about 1 part in 300 of the soluble protein, which is several hundred times greater than the maximal value found in the original L1210 cells. The resistant cells contained at least 100-fold higher levels of ODC mRNA but the half-life of ODC (about 45 min) was not altered significantly. The resistant cells had much higher putrescine and cadaverine levels than control cells, but there was no significant difference in cellular spermidine or spermine content or in production of 5'-methylthioadenosine, which is a measure of polyamine synthesis. Addition of putrescine to the control or resistant cells had no effect on their content of spermidine and spermine but addition of decarboxylated S-adenosylmethionine increased the content of spermidine and spermine. These results indicate that ornithine decarboxylase is not the rate-limiting step in polyamine synthesis in these L1210 cells. The growth of the alpha-difluoromethylornithine-resistant L1210 cells was inhibited when their ability to synthesize spermidine and spermine was blocked by the addition of the S-adenosylmethionine decarboxylase inhibitor, 5'-deoxy-5'-[N-methyl-N-(3-hydrazinopropyl)]aminoadenosine. Treatment with this compound produced a reduction of more than 85% in the production of 5'-methylthioadenosine and led to a large increase in the content of putrescine and a substantial decline in the content of spermidine and spermine. These results indicate the potential value of S-adenosylmethionine decarboxylase inhibitors as therapeutic agents in conditions where ODC inhibitors are ineffective.