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REVIEW: Molecular Analysis of Polyphosphate Accumulation in Bacteria

A. Kuroda* and H. Ohtake

Department of Molecular Biotechnology, Graduate School of Advanced Sciences of Matter, Hiroshima University, Higashi-Hiroshima, Hiroshima 739-8527, Japan; fax: 81-824-22-3758; E-mail: akuroda@ipc.hiroshima-u.ac.jp

* To whom correspondence should be addressed.

Received October 4, 1999
The dynamic behavior of inorganic polyphosphate (polyP), its accumulation and disappearance, is the most striking aspect of polyP metabolism in bacteria. Imbalance between polyP synthesis and degradation results in fluctuations of polyP by 100- to 1000-fold. We here review recent results with respect to this polyP metabolism in bacteria. PolyP accumulation in response to amino acid starvation, accompanied by increased levels of stringent factors, has been observed in Escherichia coli. Inhibition by stringent factors of polyphosphatase interrupts the dynamic balance between the synthesis and degradation of polyP, accounting for polyP accumulation. Polyphosphate kinase is required for activation of intracellular protein degradation, which is required for adaptation at the onset of amino acid starvation. The adaptation to amino acid starvation is mediated by the network of stringent response and polyP metabolism. PolyP accumulation independent of stringent response has also been observed. Novobiocin, an inhibitor for DNA gyrase, stimulated accumulation of polyP but not that of stringent factors. However, a temperature-sensitive DNA gyrase mutant did not exhibit polyP accumulation at the non-permissive temperature. Antagonistic relationship of polyP to nucleic acid synthesis, explored by Harold, appears to be more complicated. We discuss relationship of Pi regulation to polyP accumulation in E. coli and Klebsiella aerogenes. A function of polyP as an in vivo phosphagen affecting polyP accumulation is also discussed.
KEY WORDS: polyphosphate, polyphosphate kinase, Escherichia coli, stringent response, guanosine tetraphosphate, adaptation, amino acid starvation, protein degradation, novobiocin, Klebsiella aerogenes, phosphate starvation, overplus, activated sludge