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

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


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / enzymology*
  • Bacteria / pathogenicity
  • Bacterial Infections / drug therapy
  • Bacterial Infections / enzymology*
  • Bacterial Infections / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Genome, Bacterial*
  • Humans
  • Phosphotransferases (Phosphate Group Acceptor) / genetics
  • Phosphotransferases (Phosphate Group Acceptor) / metabolism*
  • Polyphosphates / metabolism*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Polyphosphates
  • Phosphotransferases (Phosphate Group Acceptor)
  • polyphosphate kinase