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Mol Gen Genet. 2000 Jan;262(6):1060-9.

Expression and use of the green fluorescent protein as a reporter system in Legionella pneumophila.

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Institut für Molekulare Infektionsbiologie, Universität Würzburg, Germany.


The gene encoding the green fluorescent protein (GFP) was used as a reporter gene in Legionella pneumophila. To analyze GFP expression in Legionella, transcriptional fusions of gfp with the Legionella-specific mip (Macrophage Infectivity Potentiator) promoter (P(mip)) and the sod (SuperOxide Dismutase) promoter (P(sod)) derived from Listeria monocytogenes were constructed. Following transformation into the virulent L. pneumophila strain JR 32, strong GFP-mediated fluorescence was detected with both plasmids, although the sod promoter was associated with a 1ten-fold higher intensity. No fluorescence was observed in L. pneumophila transformed with the promoterless gfp gene. Comparison of fluorescence yields between various L. pneumophila strains that differ in their virulence characteristics and were transformed with the P(mip)-gfp carrying plasmid revealed no differences in GFP expression. Infection studies using Acanthamoeba castellanii as host and recombinant L. pneumophila strains carrying the P(mip)-gfp and P(sod)-gfp fusions indicated that the mip promoter was expressed when the bacteria replicated intracellularly. GFP expression was also used to monitor, in infected A. castellanii cells, the intracellular survival of, and incidence of host-cell killing by. L. pneumophila strains that vary in their virulence properties. As quantified by flow cytometry the highly virulent L. pneumophila strain Corby was twice as infectious to A. castellanii as the Philadelphia strain JR 32. Using the avirulent Philadelphia derivative 25D invasion but no intracellular multiplication was observed. In addition, we examined by flow cytometry the influence of cytochalasin D, cycloheximide, and methylamine on the uptake of Legionella by A. castellanii. In conclusion, gfp appears to be a convenient reporter gene whose expression in Legionella can be followed in real time and allows analysis of promoter activities in Legionella and monitoring of the infection process.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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