Extracellular pyrophosphate: The body's “water softener”

Orriss, I R (2020) Extracellular pyrophosphate: The body's “water softener”. BONE.

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Abstract

Extracellular pyrophosphate (ePPi) was first identified as a key endogenous inhibitor of mineralisation in the 1960's by Fleisch and colleagues. The main source of ePPi seems to be extracellular ATP which is continually released from cells in a controlled way. ATP is rapidly broken down by enzymes including ecto-nucleotide pyrophosphatase/phosphodiesterases to produce ePPi. The major function of ePPi is to directly inhibit hydroxyapatite formation and growth meaning that this simple molecule acts as the body's own “water softener”. However, studies have also shown that ePPi can influence gene expression and regulate its own production and breakdown. This review will summarise our current knowledge of ePPi metabolism and how it acts to prevent pathological soft tissue calcification and regulate physiological bone mineralisation.