Inorganic polyphosphate: from basic research to diagnostic and therapeutic opportunities in ALS/FTD

P Garcés, A Amaro, M Montecino, B van Zundert

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Inorganic polyphosphate (polyP) is a simple, negatively charged biopolymer with chain lengths ranging from just a few to over a thousand ortho-phosphate (Pi) residues. polyP is detected in every cell type across all organisms in nature thus far analyzed. Despite its structural simplicity, polyP has been shown to play important roles in a remarkably broad spectrum of biological processes, including blood coagulation, bone mineralization and inflammation. Furthermore, polyP has been implicated in brain function and the neurodegenerative diseases amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), frontotemporal dementia (FTD), Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. In this review, we first address the challenges associated with identifying mammalian polyP metabolizing enzymes, such as Nudt3, and quantifying polyP levels in brain tissue, cultured neural cells and cerebrospinal fluid. Subsequently, we focus on recent studies that unveil how the excessive release of polyP by human and mouse ALS/FTD astrocytes contributes to these devastating diseases by inducing hyperexcitability, leading to motoneuron death. Potential implications of elevated polyP levels in ALS/FTD patients for innovative diagnostic and therapeutic approaches are explored. It is emphasized, however, that caution is required in targeting polyP in the brain due to its diverse physiological functions, serving as an energy source, a chelator for divalent cations and a scaffold for amyloidogenic proteins. Reducing polyP levels, especially in neurons, might thus have adverse effects in brain functioning. Finally, we discuss how activated mast cells and platelets also can significantly contribute to ALS progression, as they can massively release polyP.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-135
Number of pages13
JournalBiochemical Society Transactions
Issue number1
Early online date7 Feb 2024
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024


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