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Annu Rev Microbiol. 2000;54:709-34.

Polyphosphate and phosphate pump.

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  • 1Skryabin Institute of Biochemistry and Physiology of Microorganisms, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow Region, 142292 Pushchino, Russia.


In microbial cells, inorganic polyphosphate (polyP) plays a significant role in increasing cell resistance to unfavorable environmental conditions and in regulating different biochemical processes. polyP is a polyfunctional compound. The most important of its functions are the following: phosphate and energy reservation, cation sequestration and storage, membrane channel formation, participation in phosphate transport, involvement in cell envelope formation and function, gene activity control, regulation of enzyme activities, and a vital role in stress response and stationary-phase adaptation. The functions of polyP have changed greatly during the evolution of living organisms. In prokaryotes, the most important functions are as an energy source and a phosphate reserve. In eukaryotic microorganisms, the regulatory functions predominate. Therefore, a great difference is observed between prokaryotes and eukaryotes in their polyP-metabolizing enzymes. Some key prokaryotic enzymes are not present in eukaryotes, and conversely, eukaryotes have developed new polyP-metabolizing enzymes that are not present in prokaryotes. The synthesis and degradation of polyP in each specialized organelle and compartment of eukaryotic cells are mediated by different sets of enzymes. This is consistent with the endosymbiotic hypothesis of eukaryotic cell origin.

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