The present review will explore the insights gained into inositol pyrophosphates in the 20 years since their discovery in 1993. These molecules are defined by the presence of the characteristic 'high energy' pyrophosphate moiety and can be found ubiquitously in eukaryotic cells. The enzymes that synthesize them are similarly well distributed and can be found encoded in any eukaryote genome. Rapid progress has been made in characterizing inositol pyrophosphate metabolism and they have been linked to a surprisingly diverse range of cellular functions. Two decades of work is now beginning to present a view of inositol pyrophosphates as fundamental, conserved and highly important agents in the regulation of cellular homoeostasis. In particular it is emerging that energy metabolism, and thus ATP production, is closely regulated by these molecules. Much of the early work on these molecules was performed in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae and the social amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum, but the development of mouse knockouts for IP6K1 and IP6K2 [IP6K is IP6 (inositol hexakisphosphate) kinase] in the last 5 years has provided very welcome tools to better understand the physiological roles of inositol pyrophosphates. Another recent innovation has been the use of gel electrophoresis to detect and purify inositol pyrophosphates. Despite the advances that have been made, many aspects of inositol pyrophosphate biology remain far from clear. By evaluating the literature, the present review hopes to promote further research in this absorbing area of biology.
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