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Eur J Cell Biol. 2011 Nov;90(11):903-12. doi: 10.1016/j.ejcb.2010.12.003. Epub 2011 Feb 20.

Characterisation of Legionella pneumophila phospholipases and their impact on host cells.

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Division of Bacterial Infections, Robert Koch Institute, Burgstr. 37, 38855 Wernigerode, Germany.


Phospholipases are a diverse class of enzymes produced both by eukaryotic hosts and their pathogens. Major insights into action pathways of bacterial phospholipases have been provided during the last years. On the one hand bacterial phospholipases act as potent membrane destructors and on the other hand they manipulate and initiate host signalling paths, such as chemokine expression or the inflammatory cascade. Reaction products of bacterial phospholipases may potentially influence many more host cell processes, such as cell respreading, lamellopodia formation, cell migration and membrane traffic. Phospholipases play a dominant role in the biology of the lung pathogen Legionella pneumophila. So far, 15 different phospholipase A-encoding genes have been identified in the L. pneumophila genome. These phospholipases can be divided into three major groups, the GDSL, the patatin-like and the PlaB-like enzymes. The first two lipase families are also found in higher plants (such as flowering plants) and the second family shows similarities to eukaryotic cytosolic phospholipases A. Therefore, when those enzymes are injected or secreted by the bacterium into the host cell they may mimic eukaryotic phospholipases. The current knowledge on L. pneumophila phospholipases is summarised here with emphasis on their activity, mode of secretion, localisation, expression and importance for host cell infections.

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