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FEMS Microbiol Lett. 2000 Jul 15;188(2):129-33.

Phospholipase A secreted by Legionella pneumophila destroys alveolar surfactant phospholipids.

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Abteilung für Transfusionsmedizin, Universitätsklinikum Tübingen, Germany.


Destruction of alveolar surfactant phospholipids by bacterial phospholipases is suggested to be a major virulence factor involved in bacterial pneumonia. Since Legionella pneumophila secretes phospholipase A, we analyzed phospholipid degradation in natural bovine surfactant by L. pneumophila. Phospholipids were reduced in amount after incubation with bacteria or culture supernatant of L. pneumophila serogroup 6. Free fatty acids and lysophosphatidylcholine were formed, the latter is known to be highly cytotoxic. Surface tension of surfactant as determined by pulsating bubble surfactometer increased significantly compared to the control. Phospholipase A activity seems to be a powerful agent of legionellae in causing lung disease.

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