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J Biol Chem. 1995 Mar 17;270(11):5818-22.

Inorganic polyphosphate in mammalian cells and tissues.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, Beckman Center, Stanford University School of Medicine, California 94305-5307.


Inorganic polyphosphate (polyP), a linear polymer of hundreds of orthophosphate (Pi) residues linked by high-energy, phosphoanhydride bonds, has been identified and measured in a variety of mammalian cell lines and tissues by unambiguous enzyme methods. Subpicomole amounts of polyP (0.5 pmol/100 micrograms of protein) were determined by its conversion to ATP by Escherichia coli polyphosphate kinase and, alternatively, to Pi by Saccharomyces cerevisiae exopolyphosphatase. Levels of 25 to 120 microM (in terms of Pi residues), in chains 50 to 800 residues long, were found in rodent tissues (brain, heart, kidneys, liver, and lungs) and in subcellular fractions (nuclei, mitochondria, plasma membranes, and microsomes). PolyP in brain was predominantly near 800 residues and found at similar levels pre- and postnatally. Conversion of Pi into polyP by cell lines of fibroblasts, T-cells, kidney, and adrenal cells attained levels in excess of 10 pmol per mg of cell protein per h. Synthesis of polyP from Pi in the medium bypasses intracellular Pi and ATP pools suggesting the direct involvement of membrane component(s). In confluent PC12 (adrenal pheochromocytoma) cells, polyP turnover was virtually complete in an hour, whereas in fibroblasts there was little turnover in four hours. The ubiquity of polyP and variations in its size, location, and metabolism are indicative of a multiplicity of functions for this polymer in mammalian systems.

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