Copper ions are an effective antimicrobial agent used to control Legionnaires' disease and Pontiac fever arising from institutional drinking water systems. Here, we present data on an alternative bactericidal agent, copper oxide nanoparticles (CuO-NPs), and its efficacy on Legionella pneumophila. In broth cultures, the CuO-NPs caused growth inhibition, which appeared to be concentration and exposure time dependent. The transcriptomic response of L. pneumophila to CuO-NP exposure was investigated by using a whole-genome microarray. The expression of genes involved in metabolism, transcription, translation, DNA replication and repair, and unknown/hypothetical proteins was significantly affected by exposure to CuO-NPs. In addition, expression of 21 virulence genes was also affected by exposure to CuO-NP and further evaluated by quantitative reverse transcription-PCR (qRT-PCR). Some virulence gene responses occurred immediately and transiently after addition of CuO-NPs to the cells and faded rapidly (icmV, icmW, lepA), while expression of other genes increased within 6 h (ceg29, legLC8, legP, lem19, lem24, lpg1689, and rtxA), 12 h (cegC1, dotA, enhC, htpX, icmE, pvcA, and sidF), and 24 h (legP, lem19, and ceg19), but for most of the genes tested, expression was reduced after 24 h of exposure. Genes like ceg29 and rtxA appeared to be the most responsive to CuO-NP exposures and along with other genes identified in this study may prove useful to monitor and manage the impact of drinking water disinfection on L. pneumophila.
Macrophages respond to infection with Legionella pneumophila by the induction of inflammatory mediators, including type I Interferons (IFN-Is). To explore whether the bacterial second messenger cyclic 3’-5’ diguanylate (c-diGMP) activates some of these mediators, macrophages were infected with L. pneumophila strains in which the levels of bacterial c-diGMP had been altered. Intriguingly, there was a positive correlation between c-diGMP levels and IFN-I expression. Subsequent studies with synthetic derivatives of cdiGMP, and newly described 3’-5’ diadenylate (c-diAMP), determined that these molecules activate overlapping inflammatory responses in human and murine macrophages. Moreover, UV cross-linking studies determined that both dinucleotides physically associate with a shared set of host proteins. Fractionation of macrophage extracts on a biotin-c-diGMP affinity matrix led to the identification of a set of candidate host binding proteins. These studies suggest that mammalian macrophages can sense and mount a specific inflammatory response to bacterial dinucleotides.
L. pneumophila; cyclic dinucleotides; PAMPs; interferons (ifns); cytokines and signal transduction
We present the genomic sequence of the human pathogen Legionella pneumophila serogroup 12 strain 570-CO-H (ATCC 43290), a clinical isolate from the Colorado Department of Health, Denver, CO. This is the first example of a genome sequence of L. pneumophila from a serogroup other than serogroup 1. We highlight the similarities and differences relative to six genome sequences that have been reported for serogroup 1 strains.
Inhibition of bacterial transcription represents an effective and clinically validated anti-infective chemotherapeutic strategy. We describe the evolution of our approach to the streptolydigin class of antibiotics that target bacterial RNA polymerases (RNAPs). This effort resulted in the synthesis and biological evaluation of streptolydigin, streptolydiginone, streptolic acid and a series of new streptolydigin-based agents. Subsequent biochemical evaluation of RNAP inhibition demonstrated that the presence of both streptolic acid and tetramic acid subunits was required for activity of this class of antibiotics. In addition, we identified 10,11-dihydrostreptolydigin as a new RNAP-targeting agent, which was assembled with high synthetic efficiency of 15 steps in the longest linear sequence. Dihydrostreptolydigin inhibited three representative bacterial RNAPs and displayed in vitro antibacterial activity against S. salivarius. The overall increase in synthetic efficiency combined with substantial antibacterial activity of this fully synthetic antibiotic demonstrates the power of organic synthesis in enabling design and comprehensive in vitro pharmacological evaluation of new chemical agents that target bacterial transcription.
Legionella pneumophila, the causative agent of Legionnaires' disease, invades and replicates within macrophages and protozoan cells inside a vacuole. The type IVB Icm/Dot secretion system is necessary for the translocation of effector proteins that modulate vesicle trafficking pathways in the host cell, thus avoiding phagosome-lysosome fusion. The Legionella VipA effector was previously identified by its ability to interfere with organelle trafficking in the Multivesicular Body (MVB) pathway when ectopically expressed in yeast. In this study, we show that VipA binds actin in vitro and directly polymerizes microfilaments without the requirement of additional proteins, displaying properties distinct from other bacterial actin nucleators. Microscopy studies revealed that fluorescently tagged VipA variants localize to puncta in eukaryotic cells. In yeast these puncta are associated with actin-rich regions and components of the Multivesicular Body pathway such as endosomes and the MVB-associated protein Bro1. During macrophage infection, native translocated VipA associated with actin patches and early endosomes. When ectopically expressed in mammalian cells, VipA-GFP displayed a similar distribution ruling out the requirement of additional effectors for binding to its eukaryotic targets. Interestingly, a mutant form of VipA, VipA-1, that does not interfere with organelle trafficking is also defective in actin binding as well as association with early endosomes and shows a homogeneous cytosolic localization. These results show that the ability of VipA to bind actin is related to its association with a specific subcellular location as well as its role in modulating organelle trafficking pathways. VipA constitutes a novel type of actin nucleator that may contribute to the intracellular lifestyle of Legionella by altering cytoskeleton dynamics to target host cell pathways.
Legionella pneumophila is a facultative intracellular bacterium that can cause an often fatal type of pneumonia known as Legionnaires' disease. In nature, L. pneumophila is found in both fresh water and soil where it parasitizes free-living protists. Upon inhalation of contaminated aerosols, L. pneumophila invades and replicates in alveolar macrophages, leading to inflammation and development of the disease. Legionella uses a type IVB secretion system to translocate effector proteins into the host cell that modify its trafficking pathways and prevent fusion of the newly formed phagosome with the lysosome. One of these effectors is VipA, which, when expressed in yeast interferes with the Multivesicular Body (MVB) pathway. We found that VipA protein binds actin and nucleates its polymerization without additional host factors. VipA localizes in puncta in eukaryotic cells, and these colocalize with actin-rich regions and endosomes. We demonstrate that the ability to disrupt the MVB is associated with the capacity to bind actin. Thus VipA may contribute to the intracellular lifestyle of L. pneumophila by targeting the cytoskeleton in order to disrupt normal vacuolar trafficking pathways in host cells.
Manipulation of the actin cytoskeleton is a commonly used process by which bacterial pathogens and viruses are able to neutralize host defense mechanisms and subvert them in order to replicate in a hostile environment. Diverse bacteria display a wide array of mechanisms of regulation of microfilaments to enter, move within or exit the host cell. A less studied subject is how pathogens may co-opt the actin cytoskeleton to disturb vesicle trafficking pathways, namely phagolysosomal fusion, and avoid degradation. In fact, although actin plays a role in endosomal trafficking and phagosome maturation, the knowledge on the exact mechanisms and additional players is still scarce. Recently, we found that the Legionella pneumophila virulence factor VipA is an actin nucleator, associates with actin filaments and early endosomes during infection, and interferes in yeast organelle trafficking pathways, suggesting it may be linking actin dynamics to endosome biogenesis. Further studies on this protein, together with work on other bacterial effectors, may help shed light in the role of actin in endosomal maturation.
Legionella pneumophila; Type IV Secretion System; VipA; actin; effector; multivesicular body; organelle trafficking
Natural transformation by competence is a major mechanism of horizontal gene transfer in bacteria. Competence is defined as the genetically programmed physiological state that enables bacteria to actively take up DNA from the environment. The conditions that signal competence development are multiple and elusive, complicating the understanding of its evolutionary significance. We used expression of the competence gene comEA as a reporter of competence development and screened several hundred molecules for their ability to induce competence in the freshwater living pathogen Legionella pneumophila. We found that comEA expression is induced by chronic exposure to genotoxic molecules such as mitomycin C and antibiotics of the fluoroquinolone family. These results indicated that, in L. pneumophila, competence may be a response to genotoxic stress. Sunlight-emitted UV light represents a major source of genotoxic stress in the environment and we found that exposure to UV radiation effectively induces competence development. For the first time, we show that genetic exchanges by natural transformation occur within an UV-stressed population. Genotoxic stress induces the RecA-dependent SOS response in many bacteria. However, genetic and phenotypic evidence suggest that L. pneumophila lacks a prototypic SOS response and competence development in response to genotoxic stress is RecA independent. Our results strengthen the hypothesis that competence may have evolved as a DNA damage response in SOS-deficient bacteria. This parasexual response to DNA damage may have enabled L. pneumophila to acquire and propagate foreign genes, contributing to the emergence of this human pathogen.
Legionella pneumophila is a gram-negative bacterial species that is ubiquitous in almost any aqueous environment. It is the agent of Legionnaires’ disease, an acute and often under-reported form of pneumonia. In mammals, L. pneumophila replicates inside macrophages within a modified vacuole. Many protein regulators have been identified that control virulence-related properties, including RpoS, LetA/LetS, and PmrA/PmrB. In the past few years, the importance of regulation of virulence factors by small regulatory RNA (sRNAs) has been increasingly appreciated. This is also the case in L. pneumophila where three sRNAs (RsmY, RsmZ, and 6S RNA) were recently shown to be important determinants of virulence regulation and 79 actively transcribed sRNAs were identified. In this review we describe current knowledge about sRNAs and their regulatory properties and how this relates to the known regulatory systems of L. pneumophila. We also provide a model for sRNA-mediated control of gene expression that serves as a framework for understanding the regulation of virulence-related properties of L. pneumophila.
CsrA; RsmY; RsmZ; 6S RNA; cyclic di-GMP; CRISPR
Legionella pneumophila is the causative agent of Legionnaires’ disease, an acute pulmonary infection. L. pneumophila is able to infect and multiply in both phagocytic protozoa, such as Acanthamoeba castellanii, and mammalian professional phagocytes. The best-known L. pneumophila virulence determinant is the Icm/Dot type IVB secretion system, which is used to translocate more than 150 effector proteins into host cells. While the transcriptional response of Legionella to the intracellular environment of A. castellanii has been investigated, much less is known about the Legionella transcriptional response inside human macrophages. In this study, the transcriptome of L. pneumophila was monitored during exponential and post-exponential phase in rich AYE broth as well as during infection of human cultured macrophages. This was accomplished with microarrays and an RNA amplification procedure called selective capture of transcribed sequences to detect small amounts of mRNA from low numbers of intracellular bacteria. Among the genes induced intracellularly are those involved in amino acid biosynthetic pathways leading to l-arginine, l-histidine, and l-proline as well as many transport systems involved in amino acid and iron uptake. Genes involved in catabolism of glycerol are also induced during intracellular growth, suggesting that glycerol could be used as a carbon source. The genes encoding the Icm/Dot system are not differentially expressed inside cells compared to control bacteria grown in rich broth, but the genes encoding several translocated effectors are strongly induced. Moreover, we used the transcriptome data to predict previously unrecognized Icm/Dot effector genes based on their expression pattern and confirmed translocation for three candidates. This study provides a comprehensive view of how L. pneumophila responds to the human macrophage intracellular environment.
THP-1; microarray; SCOTS; Icm/Dot effectors; iron
Legionella pneumophila is an intracellular pathogen that infects protozoa in aquatic environments and when inhaled by susceptible human hosts replicates in alveolar macrophages and can result in the often fatal pneumonia called Legionnaires' disease. The ability of L. pneumophila to replicate within host cells requires the establishment of a specialized compartment that evades normal phagolysosome fusion called the Legionella-containing vacuole (LCV). Elucidation of the biochemical composition of the LCV and the identification of the regulatory signals sensed during intracellular replication are inherently challenging. l-Arginine is a critical nutrient in the metabolism of both prokaryotic and eukaryotic organisms. We showed that the L. pneumophila arginine repressor homolog, ArgR, is required for maximal intracellular growth in the unicellular host Acanthamoeba castellanii. In this study, we present evidence that the concentration of l-arginine in the LCV is sensed by ArgR to produce an intracellular transcriptional response. We characterized the L. pneumophila ArgR regulon by global gene expression analysis, identified genes highly affected by ArgR, showed that ArgR repression is dependent upon the presence of l-arginine, and demonstrated that ArgR-regulated genes are derepressed during intracellular growth. Additional targets of ArgR that may account for the argR mutant's intracellular multiplication defect are discussed. These results suggest that l-arginine availability functions as a regulatory signal during Legionella intracellular growth.
Proteins that metabolize or bind the nucleotide second messenger cyclic diguanylate regulate a wide variety of important processes in bacteria. These processes include motility, biofilm formation, cell division, differentiation, and virulence. The role of cyclic diguanylate signaling in the lifestyle of Legionella pneumophila, the causative agent of Legionnaires’ disease, has not previously been examined. The L. pneumophila genome encodes 22 predicted proteins containing domains related to cyclic diguanylate synthesis, hydrolysis, and recognition. We refer to these genes as cdgS (cyclic diguanylate signaling) genes. Strains of L. pneumophila containing deletions of all individual cdgS genes were created and did not exhibit any observable growth defect in growth medium or inside host cells. However, when overexpressed, several cdgS genes strongly decreased the ability of L. pneumophila to grow inside host cells. Expression of these cdgS genes did not affect the Dot/Icm type IVB secretion system, the major determinant of intracellular growth in L. pneumophila. L. pneumophila strains overexpressing these cdgS genes were less cytotoxic to THP-1 macrophages than wild-type L. pneumophila but retained the ability to resist grazing by amoebae. In many cases, the intracellular-growth inhibition caused by cdgS gene overexpression was independent of diguanylate cyclase or phosphodiesterase activities. Expression of the cdgS genes in a Salmonella enterica serovar Enteritidis strain that lacks all diguanylate cyclase activity indicated that several cdgS genes encode potential cyclases. These results indicate that components of the cyclic diguanylate signaling pathway play an important role in regulating the ability of L. pneumophila to grow in host cells.
All bacteria must sense and respond to environmental cues. Intracellular bacterial pathogens must detect and respond to host functions that limit their ability to carry out a successful infection. Small-molecule second messengers play key roles in transmitting signals from environmental receptors to the proteins and other components that respond to signals. Cyclic diguanylate is a ubiquitous bacterial second messenger known to play an important role in many sensing and signaling systems in bacteria. The causative agent of Legionnaires’ disease, Legionella pneumophila, is an intracellular pathogen that grows inside environmental protists and human macrophages by subverting the normal processes that these cells use to capture and destroy bacteria. We show that the several cyclic diguanylate signaling components in Legionella play a role in the ability to grow inside both kinds of host cells. This work highlights the role of cyclic diguanylate signaling during intracellular growth.
We report here that gemfibrozil (GFZ) inhibits axenic and intracellular growth of Legionella pneumophila and of 27 strains of wild-type and multidrug-resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis in bacteriological medium and in human and mouse macrophages, respectively. At a concentration of 0.4 mM, GFZ completely inhibited L. pneumophila fatty acid synthesis, while at 0.12 mM it promoted cytoplasmic accumulation of polyhydroxybutyrate. To assess the mechanism(s) of these effects, we cloned an L. pneumophila FabI enoyl reductase homolog that complemented for growth an Escherichia coli strain carrying a temperature-sensitive enoyl reductase and rendered the complemented E. coli strain sensitive to GFZ at the nonpermissive temperature. GFZ noncompetitively inhibited this L. pneumophila FabI homolog, as well as M. tuberculosis InhA and E. coli FabI.
Pathogens use diverse molecular machines to penetrate host cells and manipulate intracellular vesicular trafficking. Viruses employ glycoproteins, functionally and structurally similar to the SNARE proteins, to induce eukaryotic membrane fusion. Intracellular pathogens, on the other hand, need to block fusion of their infectious phagosomes with various endocytic compartments to escape from the degradative pathway. The molecular details concerning the mechanisms underlying this process are lacking. Using both an in vitro liposome fusion assay and a cellular assay, we showed that SNARE-like bacterial proteins block membrane fusion in eukaryotic cells by directly inhibiting SNARE-mediated membrane fusion. More specifically, we showed that IncA and IcmG/DotF, two SNARE-like proteins respectively expressed by Chlamydia and Legionella, inhibit the endocytic SNARE machinery. Furthermore, we identified that the SNARE-like motif present in these bacterial proteins encodes the inhibitory function. This finding suggests that SNARE-like motifs are capable of specifically manipulating membrane fusion in a wide variety of biological environments. Ultimately, this motif may have been selected during evolution because it is an efficient structural motif for modifying eukaryotic membrane fusion and thus contribute to pathogen survival.
Legionella pneumophila is the causative agent of the severe and potentially fatal pneumonia Legionnaires' disease. L. pneumophila is able to replicate within macrophages and protozoa by establishing a replicative compartment in a process that requires the Icm/Dot type IVB secretion system. The signals and regulatory pathways required for Legionella infection and intracellular replication are poorly understood. Mutation of the rpoS gene, which encodes σS, does not affect growth in rich medium but severely decreases L. pneumophila intracellular multiplication within protozoan hosts. To gain insight into the intracellular multiplication defect of an rpoS mutant, we examined its pattern of gene expression during exponential and postexponential growth. We found that σS affects distinct groups of genes that contribute to Legionella intracellular multiplication. We demonstrate that rpoS mutants have a functional Icm/Dot system yet are defective for the expression of many genes encoding Icm/Dot-translocated substrates. We also show that σS affects the transcription of the cpxR and pmrA genes, which encode two-component response regulators that directly affect the transcription of Icm/Dot substrates. Our characterization of the L. pneumophila small RNA csrB homologs, rsmY and rsmZ, introduces a link between σS and the posttranscriptional regulator CsrA. We analyzed the network of σS-controlled genes by mutational analysis of transcriptional regulators affected by σS. One of these, encoding the L. pneumophila arginine repressor homolog gene, argR, is required for maximal intracellular growth in amoebae. These data show that σS is a key regulator of multiple pathways required for L. pneumophila intracellular multiplication.
Delivery of effector proteins is a process widely used by bacterial pathogens to subvert host cell functions and cause disease. Effector delivery is achieved by elaborate injection devices and can often be triggered by environmental stimuli. However, effector export by the L. pneumophila Icm/Dot Type IVB secretion system cannot be detected until the bacterium encounters a target host cell. We used chemical genetics, a perturbation strategy that utilizes small molecule inhibitors, to determine the mechanisms critical for L. pneumophila Icm/Dot activity. From a collection of more than 2,500 annotated molecules we identified specific inhibitors of effector translocation. We found that L. pneumophila effector translocation in macrophages requires host cell factors known to be involved in phagocytosis such as phosphoinositide 3-kinases, actin and tubulin. Moreover, we found that L. pneumophila phagocytosis and effector translocation also specifically require the receptor protein tyrosine phosphate phosphatases CD45 and CD148. We further show that phagocytosis is required to trigger effector delivery unless intimate contact between the bacteria and the host is artificially generated. In addition, real-time analysis of effector translocation suggests that effector export is rate-limited by phagocytosis. We propose a model in which L. pneumophila utilizes phagocytosis to initiate an intimate contact event required for the translocation of pre-synthesized effector molecules. We discuss the need for host cell participation in the initial step of the infection and its implications in the L. pneumophila lifestyle. Chemical genetic screening provides a novel approach to probe the host cell functions and factors involved in host–pathogen interactions.
Many bacterial pathogens subvert the cellular functions of their host by translocating effector proteins into specific cells. L. pneumophila primarily targets the alveolar macrophage in its human host or the unicellular protozoa in its natural environment. The bacterium uses a Type IVB secretion system called the Icm/Dot system to translocate its effectors. In contrast to other injection devices, effector secretion by the Icm/Dot system cannot be triggered without the involvement of a target cell. We hypothesize that activity of the Icm/Dot system responds to some signaling or functional activation by the target cell. To identify the host cell function required for activity of the Icm/Dot system we used a small molecule-mediated perturbation strategy called chemical genetics. We screened more than 2,500 annotated small molecules to identify inhibitors of L. pneumophila effector translocation in the macrophage. Many of these molecules inhibited known host cell factors involved in phagocytosis. We also identified host cell factors specifically required for L. pneumophila phagocytosis. We further show that phagocytosis of L. pneumophila by the macrophage is required to trigger effector translocation by the Icm/Dot system. Our data indicate that participation of the target cell is required to generate an intimate contact that stimulates effector translocation by the Icm/Dot system. The host cell participation in the effector translocation process has implications in the environmental lifestyle of L. pneumophila. We propose that relying on an active host cell process to stimulate translocation provides L. pneumophila with a test for the fitness of the potential host cell. This could prevent the unwanted delivery of L. pneumophila effectors into non-productive hosts.
RNase R is a processive 3′-5′ exoribonuclease with a high degree of conservation in prokaryotes. Although some bacteria possess additional hydrolytic 3′-5′ exoribonucleases such as RNase II, RNase R was found to be the only predicted one in the facultative intracellular pathogen Legionella pneumophila. This provided a unique opportunity to study the role of RNase R in the absence of an additional RNase with similar enzymatic activity. We investigated the role of RNase R in the biology of Legionella pneumophila under various conditions and performed gene expression profiling using microarrays. At optimal growth temperature, the loss of RNase R had no major consequence on bacterial growth and had a moderate impact on normal gene regulation. However, at a lower temperature, the loss of RNase R had a significant impact on bacterial growth and resulted in the accumulation of structured RNA degradation products. Concurrently, gene regulation was affected and specifically resulted in an increased expression of the competence regulon. Loss of the exoribonuclease activity of RNase R was sufficient to induce competence development, a genetically programmed process normally triggered as a response to environmental stimuli. The temperature-dependent expression of competence genes in the rnr mutant was found to be independent of previously identified competence regulators in Legionella pneumophila. We suggest that a physiological role of RNase R is to eliminate structured RNA molecules that are stabilized by low temperature, which in turn may affect regulatory networks, compromising adaptation to cold and thus resulting in decreased viability.
Legionella pneumophila, the causative agent of Legionnaires' disease, evades phago-lysosome fusion in mammalian and protozoan hosts to create a suitable niche for intracellular replication. To modulate vesicle trafficking pathways, L. pneumophila translocates effector proteins into eukaryotic cells through a Type IVB macro-molecular transport system called the Icm-Dot system. In this study, we employed a fluorescence-based translocation assay to show that 33 previously identified Legionella eukaryotic-like genes (leg) encode substrates of the Icm-Dot secretion system. To assess which of these proteins may contribute to the disruption of vesicle trafficking, we expressed each gene in yeast and looked for phenotypes related to vacuolar protein sorting. We found that LegC3-GFP and LegC7/YlfA-GFP caused the mis-secretion of CPY-Invertase, a fusion protein normally restricted to the yeast vacuole. We also found that LegC7/YlfA-GFP and its paralog LegC2/YlfB-GFP formed large structures around the yeast vacuole while LegC3-GFP localized to the plasma membrane and a fragmented vacuole. In mammalian cells, LegC2/YlfB-GFP and LegC7/YlfA-GFP were found within large structures that co-localized with anti-KDEL antibodies but excluded the lysosomal marker LAMP-1, similar to what is observed in Legionella-containing vacuoles. LegC3-GFP, in contrast, was observed as smaller structures which had no obvious co-localization with KDEL or LAMP-1. Finally, LegC3-GFP caused the accumulation of many endosome-like structures containing undigested material when expressed in the protozoan host Dictyostelium discoideum. Our results demonstrate that multiple Leg proteins are Icm/Dot-dependent substrates and that LegC3, LegC7/YlfA, and LegC2/YlfB may contribute to the intracellular trafficking of L. pneumophila by interfering with highly conserved pathways that modulate vesicle maturation.
Legionella pneumophila is a Gram-negative bacterial species that causes a severe pneumonia known as Legionnaires' disease. Inhalation of L. pneumophila–contaminated aerosols results in the infection of lung macrophages. Following infection, the bacteria use a Type IVB secretion system to deliver multiple effector proteins into the macrophages to create a membrane-bound replicative compartment called the Legionella-containing vacuole, or LCV. The LCV is defined by its recruitment of early secretory vesicles and avoidance of the bactericidal lysosomes. We identified several effector proteins that contain eukaryotic domains and share significant homology with eukaryotic organelle trafficking proteins. We demonstrate that 33 Legionella eukaryotic-like genes (leg) encode proteins that are translocated into host cells. When artificially expressed in yeast, three Leg proteins (LegC2, LegC3, and LegC7) were able to disrupt normal vesicle trafficking and vacuole morphology. In addition, the Leg proteins induced the formation of, and were localized within, distinct structures when expressed in mammalian cells. In the protozoan host Dictyostelium discoideum, expression of LegC3 resulted in the accumulation of membranous compartments containing partially digested material. Thus, LegC3, LegC2, and LegC7 represent novel effector proteins that may contribute to the intracellular lifestyle of L. pneumophila by disrupting normal vacuolar trafficking pathways in host cells.
Intracellular pathogens exploit host cell functions to create a replication niche inside eukaryotic cells. The causative agent of Legionnaires' disease, the γ-proteobacterium Legionella pneumophila, resides and replicates within a modified vacuole of protozoan and mammalian cells. L. pneumophila translocates effector proteins into host cells through the Icm-Dot complex, a specialized type IVB secretion system that is required for intracellular growth. To find out if some effector proteins may have been acquired through interdomain horizontal gene transfer (HGT), we performed a bioinformatic screen that searched for eukaryotic motifs in all open reading frames of the L. pneumophila Philadelphia-1 genome. We found 44 uncharacterized genes with many distinct eukaryotic motifs. Most of these genes contain G+C biases compared to other L. pneumophila genes, supporting the theory that they were acquired through HGT. Furthermore, we found that several of them are expressed and up-regulated in stationary phase in an RpoS-dependent manner. In addition, at least seven of these gene products are translocated into host cells via the Icm-Dot complex, confirming their role in the intracellular environment. Reminiscent of the case with most Icm-Dot substrates, most of the strains containing mutations in these genes grew comparably to the parent strain intracellularly. Our findings suggest that in L. pneumophila, interdomain HGT may have been a major mechanism for the acquisition of determinants of infection.
In this study, we examined whether virulence conversion occurs in Legionella pneumophila by conjugal transfer of chromosomal DNA. A virulent strain, K6, which has the genes for Kmr and LacZ+ transposed in the chromosome of strain Philadelphia-1, which belongs to serogroup 1, was used as one parent, and an avirulent strain, Chicago-2S, which is a spontaneous streptomycin-resistant derivative of strain Chicago-2 belonging to serogroup 6, was used as the other parent. Experiments in which K6 (approximately 2.6 × 109 CFU) and Chicago-2S (approximately 8.9 × 109 CFU) were mated typically yielded 103 Kmr Smr LacZ+ transconjugants. Thirty-two (about 2.8%) of 1,152 transconjugants belonging to serogroup 6 acquired the ability to grow intracellularly in Acanthamoeba castellanii and guinea pig macrophages. When guinea pigs were infected with sublethal doses of Legionella aerosols generated from one of these transconjugants (HM1011), they developed a severe pneumonia similar to that caused by donor strain K6. These results show that avirulent strain Chicago-2S changed into virulent strain HM1011 through conjugation with virulent strain K6. Furthermore, we showed that Legionella chromosomal virulence genes (icm-dot locus) were horizontally transferred by the conjugation system. The chromosomal conjugation system may play a role(s) in the evolution of L. pneumophila.
Wild-type Legionella pneumophila grows in human macrophages within a replicative phagosome, avoiding lysosomal fusion, while nonreplicative mutants are killed in lysosomes. Wortmannin, a phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) inhibitor, blocks phagocytosis of an avirulent mutant, but not of wild-type L. pneumophila, without affecting membrane ruffling and actin polymerization. These results show that wild-type and mutant Legionella strains use different entry pathways. They suggest that PI3Ks are involved in phagocytosis of an avirulent L. pneumophila mutant and regulate the ability of microorganisms to generate a replicative phagosome.
The maltose transporter FGK2 complex of Escherichia coli was purified with the aid of a glutathione S-transferase molecular tag. In contrast to the membrane-associated form of the complex, which requires liganded maltose binding protein (MBP) for ATPase activity, the purified detergent-soluble complex exhibited a very high level of ATPase activity. This uncoupled activity was not due to dissociation of the MalK ATPase subunit from the integral membrane protein MalF and MalG subunits. The detergent-soluble ATPase activity of the complex could be further stimulated by wild-type MBP but not by a signaling-defective mutant MBP. Wild-type MBP increased the Vmax of the ATPase 2.7-fold but had no effect on the Km of the enzyme for ATP. When the detergent-soluble complex was reconstituted in proteoliposomes, it returned to being dependent on MBP for activation of ATPase, consistent with the idea that the structural changes induced in the complex by detergent that result in activation of the ATPase are reversible. The uncoupled ATPase activity resembled the membrane-bound activity of the complex also with respect to sensitivity to NaN3, as well as a mercurial, p-chloromercuribenzosulfonic acid. Verapamil, a compound that activates the ATPase activity of the multiple drug resistance P-glycoprotein, activated the maltose transporter ATPase as well. The activation of this bacterial transporter by verapamil suggests that a structural feature that is conserved among both eukaryotic and prokaryotic ATP binding cassette transporters is responsible for this activation.
To investigate regulatory networks in Legionella pneumophila, the gene encoding the homolog of the Escherichia coli stress and stationary-phase sigma factor RpoS was identified by complementation of an E. coli rpoS mutation. An open reading frame that is approximately 60% identical to the E. coli rpoS gene was identified. Western blot analysis showed that the level of L. pneumophila RpoS increased in stationary phase. An insertion mutation was constructed in the rpoS gene on the chromosome of L. pneumophila, and the ability of this mutant strain to survive various stress conditions was assayed and compared with results for the wild-type strain. Both the mutant and wild-type strains were more resistant to stress when in stationary phase than when in the logarithmic phase of growth. This finding indicates that L. pneumophila RpoS is not required for a stationary-phase-dependent resistance to stress. Although the mutant strain was able to kill HL-60- and THP-1-derived macrophages, it could not replicate within a protozoan host, Acanthamoeba castellanii. These data suggest that L. pneumophila possesses a growth phase-dependent resistance to stress that is independent of RpoS control and that RpoS likely regulates genes that enable it to survive in the environment within protozoa. Our data indicate that the role of rpoS in L. pneumophila is very different from what has previously been reported for E. coli rpoS.