Send to

Choose Destination
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 Aug 23;102(34):12206-11. Epub 2005 Aug 9.

Coevolution between nonhomologous but functionally similar proteins and their conserved partners in the Legionella pathogenesis system.

Author information

Department of Molecular Microbiology and Biotechnology, George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel Aviv University, Ramat-Aviv, Tel Aviv 69978, Israel.


Legionella pneumophila, the causative agent of Legionnaires' disease, and other pathogenic Legionella species multiply inside protozoa and human macrophages by using the intracellular multiplication (Icm)/defect in organelle trafficking (Dot) type-IV secretion system. The IcmQ protein, which possesses pore-forming activity, and IcmR, which regulates the IcmQ activity, are two essential components of this system. Analysis of the region expected to contain these two genes from 29 Legionella species revealed the presence of a conserved icmQ gene and a large hypervariable gene family [functional homologues of icmR (fir) genes], located at the icmR genomic position. Although hypervariable in their sequence, the fir genes from all 29 Legionella species were found, together with their corresponding icmQ genes, to function similarly during infection. In addition, all FIR proteins we examined were found to interact with their corresponding IcmQ proteins. Detailed bioinformatic, biochemical, and genetic analysis of the interaction between the variable FIR proteins and conserved IcmQ proteins revealed that their interaction depends on a variable region located between two conserved domains of IcmQ. This variable region was also found to be critical for IcmQ self-interaction, and the region probably coevolved with the corresponding FIR protein. A FIR-IcmQ pair was also found in Coxiella burnetii, the only known non-Legionella bacterium that contains an Icm/Dot system, indicating the significance of this protein pair for the function of this type-IV secretion system. We hypothesize that this gene variation, which is probably mediated by positive selection, plays an important role in the evolutionary arms race between the protozoan host cell and the pathogen.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for HighWire Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center