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Infect Immun. 1992 Jan;60(1):296-301.

A quantitative model of intracellular growth of Legionella pneumophila in Acanthamoeba castellanii.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Stanford University, California 94305.


A model of intracellular growth for Legionella pneumophila in Acanthamoeba castellanii has been developed and provides a quantitative measure of survival and replication after entry. In this model, Acanthamoeba monolayers were incubated with bacteria in tissue culture plates under nutrient-limiting conditions. Gentamicin was used to kill extracellular bacteria following the period of incubation, and the number of intracellular bacteria was determined following lysis of amebae. Intracellular growth of virulent L. pneumophila and other wild-type Legionella species was observed when the assay was performed at 37 degrees C. At room temperature, none of the Legionella strains tested grew intracellularly, while an avirulent L. pneumophila strain was unable to replicate in this assay at either temperature. The effect of nutrient limitation on A. castellanii during the assay prevented multiplication of the amebae and increased the level of infection by Legionella spp. The level of infection of the amebae was directly proportional to the multiplicity of infection with bacteria; at an inoculum of 1.03 x 10(7) bacteria added to wells containing 1.10 x 10(5) amebae (multiplicity of infection of 100), approximately 4.4% of A. castellanii cells became infected. Cytochalasin D reduced the uptake of bacteria by the amebae primarily by causing amebae to lift off the culture dish, reducing the number of target hosts; methylamine also reduced the level of initial infection, yet neither inhibitor was able to prevent intracellular replication of Legionella spp. Consequently, once the bacteria entered the cell, only lowered temperature could restrict replication. This model of intracellular growth provides a one-step growth curve and should be useful to study the molecular basis of the host-parasite interaction.

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