To understand the mechanism involved in the liver zonation of polyamines, we have studied the possible role of oxygen tension. When hepatocytes were cultured at 21% and at 5% oxygen in atmosphere to mimic periportal and perivenous conditions, polyamine content was modified. The observed modifications suggested an effect on the interconversion pathway. Spermidine acetyltransferase (SAT) activity and N1-acetylspermidine were therefore measured in the same conditions. SAT activity was markedly increased after 6 hours and N1-acetylspermidine was accumulated in the cells. This was caused by new enzyme synthesis. The higher expression of SAT was accompanied by an increase in the content of the specific messenger RNA (mRNA). When liver cells were depleted of polyamines, SAT activity and the specific mRNA content were not enhanced by oxygen deprivation, but they increased when polyamines were added again. Polyamines therefore appear to be necessary to promote the increase in SAT mRNA.