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Infect Immun. 2005 Aug;73(8):4494-504.

Specificity of Legionella pneumophila and Coxiella burnetii vacuoles and versatility of Legionella pneumophila revealed by coinfection.

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Laboratory of Intracellular Parasites, Rocky Mountain Laboratories, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, 903 S. 4th St., Hamilton, MT 59840, USA.


Legionella pneumophila and Coxiella burnetii are phylogenetically related intracellular bacteria that cause aerosol-transmitted lung infections. In host cells both pathogens proliferate in vacuoles whose biogenesis displays some common features. To test the functional similarity of their respective intracellular niches, African green monkey kidney epithelial (Vero) cells, A/J mouse bone marrow-derived macrophages, human macrophages, and human dendritic cells (DC) containing mature C. burnetii replication vacuoles were superinfected with L. pneumophila, and then the acidity, lysosome-associated membrane protein (LAMP) content, and cohabitation of mature replication vacuoles was assessed. In all cell types, wild-type L. pneumophila occupied distinct vacuoles in close association with acidic, LAMP-positive C. burnetii replication vacuoles. In murine macrophages, but not primate macrophages, DC, or epithelial cells, L. pneumophila replication vacuoles were acidic and LAMP positive. Unlike wild-type L. pneumophila, type IV secretion-deficient dotA mutants trafficked to lysosome-like C. burnetii vacuoles in Vero cells where they survived but failed to replicate. In primate macrophages, DC, or epithelial cells, growth of L. pneumophila was as robust in superinfected cell cultures as in those singly infected. Thus, despite their noted similarities, L. pneumophila and C. burnetii are exquisitely adapted for replication in unique replication vacuoles, and factors that maintain the C. burnetii replication vacuole do not alter biogenesis of an adjacent L. pneumophila replication vacuole. Moreover, L. pneumophila can replicate efficiently in either lysosomal vacuoles of A/J mouse cells or in nonlysosomal vacuoles of primate cells.

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