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Polyphosphate Stores Enhance the Ability of Vibrio cholerae To Overcome Environmental Stresses in a Low-Phosphate Environment▿ †

American Society for Microbiology
Publication Date
  • Environmental Microbiology
  • Ecology
  • Geography


Vibrio cholerae, the causative agent of Asiatic cholera, has been reported to make large quantities of polyphosphate. Inorganic polyphosphate is a ubiquitous molecule with a variety of functions in prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. We constructed a V. cholerae mutant with a deletion in the polyphosphate kinase (ppk) gene. The mutant was defective in polyphosphate biosynthesis. Deletion of ppk had no significant effect on production of cholera toxin, hemagglutinin/protease, motility, biofilm formation, and colonization of the suckling mouse intestine. The wild type and mutant had similar growth rates in rich and minimal medium and exhibited similar phosphate uptake and alkaline phosphatase induction. In contrast to ppk mutants from other gram-negative bacteria, the V. cholerae mutant survived prolonged starvation in LB medium and artificial seawater basal salts. The ppk mutant was significantly more sensitive to low pH, high salinity, and oxidative stress when it was cultured in low-phosphate minimal medium. The ppk mutant failed to induce catalase when it was downshifted to phosphorus-limiting conditions. Furthermore, the increased sensitivity of the ppk mutant to environmental stressors in phosphate-limited medium correlated with a diminished capacity to synthesize ATP from intracellular reservoirs. We concluded that polyphosphate protects V. cholerae from environmental stresses under phosphate limitation conditions. It has been proposed that toxigenic V. cholerae can survive in estuaries and brackish waters in which phosphorus and/or nitrogen can be a limiting nutrient. Thus, synthesis of large polyphosphate stores could enhance the ability of V. cholerae to survive in the aquatic environment.

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