Microbiology

The Power of Polyphosphate

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Science  18 Aug 2000:
Vol. 289, Issue 5482, pp. 1111
DOI: 10.1126/science.289.5482.1111a

Inorganic polyphosphate (poly P) is a linear chain of hundreds of phosphate residues linked by high-energy phosphoanhydride bonds. It can be found in all cells, but its functional role has remained elusive. Rashid et al. show that poly P is essential for the virulence of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a Gram-negative bacterium that causes serious infections in cystic fibrosis patients and in immunocompromised individuals. Like other pathogenic bacteria, P. aeruginosa forms biofilms, sessile three-dimensional aggregates of bacteria that are especially resistant to antibiotics. P. aeruginosa lacking polyphosphate kinase (PPK), the enzyme that synthesizes poly P from ATP, was found to be defective in biofilm formation and showed greatly reduced virulence in mice. PPK has not yet been detected in mammalian cells, and it may prove to be an attractive new target for antimicrobial therapies. — PAK

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A.97, 9636 (2000).

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