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Annu Rev Microbiol. 2000;54:567-613.

Legionella pneumophila pathogesesis: a fateful journey from amoebae to macrophages.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, USA.,


Legionella pneumophila first commanded attention in 1976, when investigators from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified it as the culprit in a massive outbreak of pneumonia that struck individuals attending an American Legion convention (). It is now clear that this gram-negative bacterium flourishes naturally in fresh water as a parasite of amoebae, but it can also replicate within alveolar macrophages. L. pneumophila pathogenesis is discussed using the following model as a framework. When ingested by phagocytes, stationary-phase L. pneumophila bacteria establish phagosomes which are completely isolated from the endosomal pathway but are surrounded by endoplasmic reticulum. Within this protected vacuole, L. pneumophila converts to a replicative form that is acid tolerant but no longer expresses several virulence traits, including factors that block membrane fusion. As a consequence, the pathogen vacuoles merge with lysosomes, which provide a nutrient-rich replication niche. Once the amino acid supply is depleted, progeny accumulate the second messenger guanosine 3',5'-bispyrophosphate (ppGpp), which coordinates entry into the stationary phase with expression of traits that promote transmission to a new phagocyte. A number of factors contribute to L. pneumophila virulence, including type II and type IV secretion systems, a pore-forming toxin, type IV pili, flagella, and numerous other factors currently under investigation. Because of its resemblance to certain aspects of Mycobacterium, Toxoplasma, Leishmania, and Coxiella pathogenesis, a detailed description of the mechanism used by L. pneumophila to manipulate and exploit phagocyte membrane traffic may suggest novel strategies for treating a variety of infectious diseases. Knowledge of L. pneumophila ecology may also inform efforts to combat the emergence of new opportunistic macrophage pathogens.

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