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Infect Immun. 2011 May;79(5):1984-97. doi: 10.1128/IAI.01077-10. Epub 2011 Mar 7.

Legionella pneumophila type II secretion dampens the cytokine response of infected macrophages and epithelia.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Northwestern University Medical School, 320 East Superior St., Chicago, IL 60611, USA.


The type II secretion (T2S) system of Legionella pneumophila is required for the ability of the bacterium to grow within the lungs of A/J mice. By utilizing mutants lacking T2S (lsp), we now document that T2S promotes the intracellular infection of both multiple types of macrophages and lung epithelia. Following infection of macrophages, lsp mutants (but not a complemented mutant) elicited significantly higher levels of interleukin 6 (IL-6), tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α), IL-10, IL-8, IL-1β, and MCP-1 within tissue culture supernatants. A similar result was obtained with infected lung epithelial cell lines and the lungs of infected A/J mice. Infection with a mutant specifically lacking the T2S-dependent ProA protease (but not a complemented proA mutant) resulted in partial elevation of cytokine levels. These data demonstrate that the T2S system of L. pneumophila dampens the cytokine/chemokine output of infected host cells. Upon quantitative reverse transcription (RT)-PCR analysis of infected host cells, an lspF mutant, but not the proA mutant, produced significantly higher levels of cytokine transcripts, implying that some T2S-dependent effectors dampen signal transduction and transcription but that others, such as ProA, act at a posttranscriptional step in cytokine expression. In summary, the impact of T2S on lung infection is a combination of at least three factors: the promotion of growth in macrophages, the facilitation of growth in epithelia, and the dampening of the chemokine and cytokine output from infected host cells. To our knowledge, these data are the first to identify a link between a T2S system and the modulation of immune factors following intracellular infection.

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