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Cell Microbiol. 2007 Dec;9(12):2903-20. Epub 2007 Jul 5.

The Legionella pneumophila response regulator LqsR promotes host cell interactions as an element of the virulence regulatory network controlled by RpoS and LetA.

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Institute of Microbiology, ETH Zürich, Wolfgang-Pauli-Strasse 10, 8093 Zürich, Switzerland.


Legionella pneumophila is an opportunistic human pathogen that replicates within environmental amoebae including Acanthamoeba castellanii and Dictyostelium discoideum. The Icm/Dot type IV secretion system promotes phagocytosis and intracellular replication of L. pneumophila in an endoplasmic reticulum-derived 'Legionella-containing vacuole' (LCV). L. pneumophila adopts a biphasic life cycle consisting of a replicative growth phase and a transmissive (stationary) phase, the latter of which is characterized by the preferential expression of genes required for motility and virulence. A bioinformatic analysis of the L. pneumophila genome revealed a gene cluster homologous to the Vibrio cholerae cqsAS genes, encoding a putative quorum sensing autoinducer synthase (lqsA) and a sensor kinase (lqsS), which flank a novel response regulator (lqsR). We report here that an L. pneumophila lqsR deletion mutant grew in broth with the same rate as wild-type bacteria, but entered the replicative growth phase earlier. Overexpression of lqsR led to an elongated morphology of the bacteria. The lqsR mutant strain was found to be more salt-resistant and impaired for intracellular growth in A. castellanii, D. discoideum and macrophages, formation of the ER-derived LCV and toxicity. Moreover, L. pneumophila lacking LqsR, as well as strains lacking the stationary sigma factor RpoS or the two-component response regulator LetA, were phagocytosed less efficiently by A. castellanii, D. discoideum or macrophages. The expression of lqsR was dependent on RpoS and, to a lesser extent, also on LetA. DNA microarray experiments revealed that lqsR regulates the expression of genes involved in virulence, motility and cell division, consistent with a role for LqsR in the transition from the replicative to the transmissive (virulent) phase. Our findings indicate that LqsR is a novel pleiotropic regulator involved in RpoS- and LetA-controlled interactions of L. pneumophila with phagocytes.

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