Assaying for Inorganic Polyphosphate in Bacteria

J Vis Exp. 2019 Jan 21:(143):10.3791/58818. doi: 10.3791/58818.


Inorganic polyphosphate (polyP) is a biological polymer found in cells from all domains of life, and is required for virulence and stress response in many bacteria. There are a variety of methods for quantifying polyP in biological materials, many of which are either labor-intensive or insensitive, limiting their usefulness. We present here a streamlined method for polyP quantification in bacteria, using a silica membrane column extraction optimized for rapid processing of multiple samples, digestion of polyP with the polyP-specific exopolyphosphatase ScPPX, and detection of the resulting free phosphate with a sensitive ascorbic acid-based colorimetric assay. This procedure is straightforward, inexpensive, and allows reliable polyP quantification in diverse bacterial species. We present representative polyP quantification from the Gram-negative bacterium (Escherichia coli), the Gram-positive lactic acid bacterium (Lactobacillus reuteri), and the mycobacterial species (Mycobacterium smegmatis). We also include a simple protocol for nickel affinity purification of mg quantities of ScPPX, which is not currently commercially available.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / chemistry*
  • Bacteria / metabolism
  • Polyphosphates / chemistry*
  • Polyphosphates / metabolism


  • Polyphosphates