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REVIEW: Application of Polyphosphate Metabolism to Environmental and Biotechnological Problems

J. D. Keasling*, S. J. Van Dien, P. Trelstad, N. Renninger, and K. McMahon

Department of Chemical Engineering, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-1462; fax: (510) 643-1228; E-mail: keasling@socrates.berkeley.edu

* To whom correspondence should be addressed.

Received November 12, 1999
The synthesis and degradation of polyphosphate (polyP) are influenced by the energy state of the cell and extracellular phosphate levels. The import of excess phosphate and its incorporation into polyP under phosphate- and energy-rich growth conditions allows organisms to survive when phosphate or energy are depleted. Under phosphate-starvation conditions, phosphate can be recovered from polyP by hydrolysis. When the organism is energy starved, energy can be recovered either by regenerating the high-energy phosphoanhydride bond donor (ATP in most cases) or by hydrolysis of polyP and subsequent secretion of orthophosphate to recharge the transmembrane proton gradient. Understanding how the energy state of the cell and environmental phosphate levels affect polyP metabolism is essential to improving such environmental processes as enhanced biological phosphorus removal, a treatment process that is widely used to remove excess phosphate from wastewater. Manipulation of the genes responsible for polyP metabolism can also be used to improve gene expression from phosphate-starvation promoters and to remove heavy metals from contaminated environments.
KEY WORDS: polyphosphates, environment, heavy metals, energy metabolism, enhanced biological phosphorus removal