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Microbiology. 2005 Jan;151(Pt 1):167-182. doi: 10.1099/mic.0.27563-0.

The amoebae plate test implicates a paralogue of lpxB in the interaction of Legionella pneumophila with Acanthamoeba castellanii.

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Institute of Microbiology, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Wolfgang-Pauli Str. 10, HCI G405, 8093 Z├╝rich, Switzerland.
Department of Microbiology, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, 701 West 168th Street, New York, NY 10032, USA.


Legionella pneumophila is a bacterial parasite of freshwater amoebae which also grows in alveolar macrophages and thus causes the potentially fatal pneumonia Legionnaires' disease. Intracellular growth within amoebae and macrophages is mechanistically similar and requires the Icm/Dot type IV secretion system. This paper reports the development of an assay, the amoebae plate test (APT), to analyse growth of L. pneumophila wild-type and icm/dot mutant strains spotted on agar plates in the presence of Acanthamoeba castellanii. In the APT, wild-type L. pneumophila formed robust colonies even at high dilutions, icmT, -R, -P or dotB mutants failed to grow, and icmS or -G mutants were partially growth defective. The icmS or icmG mutant strains were used to screen an L. pneumophila chromosomal library for genes that suppress the growth defect in the presence of the amoebae. An icmS suppressor plasmid was isolated that harboured the icmS and flanking icm genes, indicating that this plasmid complements the intracellular growth defect of the mutant. In contrast, different icmG suppressor plasmids rendered the icmG mutant more cytotoxic for A. castellanii without enhancing intracellular multiplication in amoebae or RAW264.7 macrophages. Deletion of individual genes in the suppressor plasmids inserts identified lcs (Legionella cytotoxic suppressor) -A, -B, -C and -D as being required for enhanced cytotoxicity of an icmG mutant strain. The corresponding proteins show sequence similarity to hydrolases, NlpD-related metalloproteases, lipid A disaccharide synthases and ABC transporters, respectively. Overexpression of LcsC, a putative paralogue of the lipid A disaccharide synthase LpxB, increased cytotoxicity of an icmG mutant but not that of other icm/dot or rpoS mutant strains against A. castellanii. Based on sequence comparison and chromosomal location, lcsB and lcsC probably encode enzymes involved in cell wall maintenance and peptidoglycan metabolism. The APT established here may prove useful to identify other bacterial factors relevant for interactions with amoeba hosts.

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