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Trends Biochem Sci. 2008 Jun;33(6):284-90. doi: 10.1016/j.tibs.2008.04.005. Epub 2008 May 16.

The long and short of it - polyphosphate, PPK and bacterial survival.

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  • 1Research Institute in Healthcare Science, Department of Pharmacy, University of Wolverhampton, Wulfruna Street, Wolverhampton, WV1 1SB, UK. michael.brown@wlv.ac.uk


Inorganic polyphosphate (poly P) is present in all species tested to date, from each of the three kingdoms of life. Studied mainly in prokaryotes, poly P and its associated enzymes are important in diverse basic metabolism, in at least some structural functions and, notably, in stress responses. These numerous and unrelated roles for poly P are probably the consequence of its presence in life-forms from early in evolution. The genomes of many bacterial species, including pathogens, encode a homologue of a major poly P synthetic enzyme, poly P kinase 1 (PPK1). Loss of PPK1 results in reduced poly P levels, and deletion of the ppk1 gene in pathogens also results in a loss of virulence towards protozoa and animals. Thus far, no PPK1 homologue has been identified in higher-order eukaryotes and, therefore, PPK1 exhibits potential as a novel target for chemotherapy.

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