Eukaryotes contain inorganic polyphosphate (polyP) and acidocalcisomes, which sequester polyP and store amino acids and divalent cations. Why polyP is sequestered in dedicated organelles is not known. We show that polyP produced in the cytosol of yeast becomes toxic. Reconstitution of polyP translocation with purified vacuoles, the acidocalcisomes of yeast, shows that cytosolic polyP cannot be imported, whereas polyP produced by the vacuolar transporter chaperone (VTC) complex, an endogenous vacuolar polyP polymerase, is efficiently imported and does not interfere with growth. PolyP synthesis and import require an electrochemical gradient, probably as a driving force for polyP translocation. VTC exposes its catalytic domain to the cytosol and carries nine vacuolar transmembrane domains. Mutations in the VTC transmembrane regions, which are likely to constitute the translocation channel, block not only polyP translocation but also synthesis. Given that they are far from the cytosolic catalytic domain of VTC, this suggests that the VTC complex obligatorily couples synthesis of polyP to its import in order to avoid toxic intermediates in the cytosol. Sequestration of otherwise toxic polyP might be one reason for the existence of acidocalcisomes in eukaryotes.
Keywords: Acidocalcisome; Inorganic polyphosphate; VTC complex; Yeast vacuole.
© 2014. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd.