Open Access Open Badges Research article

The exopolyphosphatase TbrPPX1 of Trypanosoma brucei

Edith Luginbuehl1, Stefan Kunz1, Laurent Wentzinger1, Florian Freimoser2 and Thomas Seebeck1*

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Cell Biology, University of Bern, Baltzerstrasse 4, CH-3012 Bern, Switzerland

2 Institute of Plant Sciences, ETH Zurich, Universitaetsstrasse 2, CH-8092 Zurich

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BMC Microbiology 2011, 11:4  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-11-4

Published: 6 January 2011



Exopolyphosphatases and pyrophosphatases play important but still incompletely understood roles in energy metabolism, and also in other aspects of cell biology such as osmoregulation or signal transduction. Earlier work has suggested that a human exopolyphosphatase, Prune, might exhibit cyclic nucleotide phosphodiesterase activity.


The kinetoplastida, a large order of unicellular eukaryotes that contains many important pathogens such as Trypanosoma brucei (human sleeping sickness), Trypanosoma cruzi (Chagas disease) or Leishmania ssp (several clinically dinstinct leishmaniases) all contain several exo- and pyrophosphatases. The current study provides a systematic classification of these enzymes, which now allows to situate the information that is already available on some of these enzymes. It then analyses the exopolyphosphatase TbrPPX1 of T. brucei in detail, using RNA interference and genetic knockouts in an attempt to define its function, and immunofluorescence microscopy to study its subcellular localization.

TbrPPX1 is an exopolyphosphatase that does hydrolyze pentasodium triphosphate, but not organic triphosphates such as ATP, pyrophosphate or long-chain polyphosphates. Finally, the study investigates the potential cyclic nucleotide phosphodiesterase activity of TbrPPX1.


All kinetoplastid genomes that are currently available contain genes for an exopolyphosphatase and two classes of pyrophosphatases, one associated with the acidocalcisomes and one cytoplasmic. TbrPPX1 represents the T. brucei exopolyphosphatase. It is located throughout the cytoplasm, and its genetic ablation does not produce a dramatic phenotype. Importantly, TbrPPX1 does not exhibit any cyclic nucleotide specific phosphodiesterase activity, which definitively eliminates it as an additional player in cAMP signalling of the kinetoplastida.