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Phosphate polymer forms a cornerstone of metabolic control



Phosphate polymer forms a cornerstone of metabolic control

An illustration of the multidimensionality of polyphosphate function. Credit: Graphic courtesy of Arthur Grossman and Emanuel Sanz-Luque

In a changing climate, it is increasingly important to understand how organisms respond to stressful conditions. New work led by Carnegie̵

7;s Arthur Grossman and Emanuel Sanz-Luque could enable scientists to construct organisms’ metabolism to be more resilient and productive in a variety of environments.


Their research focuses on polyphosphate, an energy-rich polymer with tens of thousands to hundreds of phosphate groups that is conserved in all kingdoms of life and is integrated into many cellular activities, including an organism’s ability to respond to changing environmental conditions.

“The ways in which polyphosphate synthesis and mobilization can be integrated into a myriad of biological processes in a variety of photosynthetic and non-photosynthetic organisms and different cell types have been difficult to elucidate,” Grossman said. “Polyphosphate plays a critical role in responding to environmental pressures, including high temperatures, exposure to toxic metals and, of particular interest to us, nutrient deprivation.”

The research team – which also included Carnegie’s Shai Saroussi, Weichao Huang and Nicholas Akkawi – investigated how the photosynthetic alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii copes with a sparse nutrient. Their results were recently published in Scientific progress.

The team revealed that polyphosphate synthesis is deeply integrated with cellular metabolism and exploits this relationship to shape the algae’s ability to adapt to challenges in its environment.

Using advanced techniques, the researchers showed that the synthesis of polyphosphate is essential for maintaining the optimal energy balance, enabling cellular physiological processes. When nutrient availability is low, polyphosphate synthesis is necessary for algae to adjust its cellular metabolism and survive adverse conditions. It does this by influencing the biochemical processes that occur in the power centers of the cell – mitochondria that perform respiration and chloroplasts that perform photosynthesis.

If a cell’s ability to synthesize polyphosphate is impaired, it is unable to perform normal electron transport in mitochondria and chloroplasts – central to the functions of these key organelles – compromising cellular regulation, fitness, and survival.

“It is possible that the role of polyphosphate synthesis and mobilization in regulating the energetic functions of the cell under nutrient-constrained conditions results in the creation of ‘control point’ molecules within chloroplast and mitochondria that control changes in genes expressed in response to conditions, “said lead author Sanz-Luque.

This knowledge can potentially be harnessed to improve the resilience of other photosynthetic organisms and enable them to better survive the stress of a changing climate.

Together, Carnegie’s Emanuel Sanz-Luque, Devaki Bhaya and Arthur Grossman also published a comprehensive review in Boundaries in plant science which describes the ways in which polyphosphate is integrated into the metabolic networks and regulatory processes of a variety of photosynthetic organisms.


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More information:
E. Sanz-Luque et al., Metabolic control of acclimatization to nutrient deprivation depending on polyphosphate synthesis, Scientific progress (2020). DOI: 10.1126 / sciadv.abb5351

Provided by the Carnegie Institution of Science

Citation: Phosphate polymer forms a cornerstone of metabolic control (2020, October 15) retrieved October 16, 2020 from https://phys.org/news/2020-10-phosphate-polymer-cornerstone-metabolic.html

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