Bacterial polyphosphates interfere with the innate host defense to infection

Nat Commun. 2020 Aug 12;11(1):4035. doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-17639-x.


Polyphosphates are linear polymers and ubiquitous metabolites. Bacterial polyphosphates are long chains of hundreds of phosphate units. Here, we report that mouse survival of peritoneal Escherichia coli sepsis is compromised by long-chain polyphosphates, and improves with bacterial polyphosphatekinase deficiency or neutralization using recombinant exopolyphosphatase. Polyphosphate activities are chain-length dependent, impair pathogen clearance, antagonize phagocyte recruitment, diminish phagocytosis and decrease production of iNOS and cytokines. Macrophages bind and internalize polyphosphates, in which their effects are independent of P2Y1 and RAGE receptors. The M1 polarization driven by E. coli derived LPS is misdirected by polyphosphates in favor of an M2 resembling phenotype. Long-chain polyphosphates modulate the expression of more than 1800 LPS/TLR4-regulated genes in macrophages. This interference includes suppression of hundreds of type I interferon-regulated genes due to lower interferon production and responsiveness, blunted STAT1 phosphorylation and reduced MHCII expression. In conclusion, prokaryotic polyphosphates disturb multiple macrophage functions for evading host immunity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigen Presentation / immunology
  • Cell Polarity
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism*
  • Escherichia coli Infections / immunology*
  • Escherichia coli Infections / microbiology*
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II / metabolism
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / immunology*
  • Immunity, Innate*
  • Interferon Type I / metabolism
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Macrophages / microbiology
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Myeloid Cells / immunology
  • Phenotype
  • Polyphosphates / metabolism*
  • Sepsis / immunology
  • Survival Analysis
  • Transcriptome / genetics


  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II
  • Interferon Type I
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Polyphosphates