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Infect Immun. 2014 Feb;82(2):720-30. doi: 10.1128/IAI.01043-13. Epub 2013 Dec 2.

The phtC-phtD locus equips Legionella pneumophila for thymidine salvage and replication in macrophages.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.


The phagosomal transporter (Pht) family of the major facilitator superfamily (MFS) is encoded by phylogenetically related intracellular gammaproteobacteria, including the opportunistic pathogen Legionella pneumophila. The location of the pht genes between the putative thymidine kinase (tdk) and phosphopentomutase (deoB) genes suggested that the phtC and phtD loci contribute to thymidine salvage in L. pneumophila. Indeed, a phtC(+) allele in trans restored pyrimidine uptake to an Escherichia coli mutant that lacked all known nucleoside transporters, whereas a phtD(+) allele did not. The results of phenotypic analyses of L. pneumophila strains lacking phtC or phtD strongly indicate that L. pneumophila requires PhtC and PhtD function under conditions where sustained dTMP synthesis is compromised. First, in broth cultures that mimicked thymidine limitation or starvation, L. pneumophila exhibited a marked requirement for PhtC function. Conversely, mutation of phtD conferred a survival advantage. Second, in medium that lacked thymidine, multicopy phtC(+) or phtD(+) alleles enhanced the survival of L. pneumophila thymidylate synthase (thyA)-deficient strains, which cannot synthesize dTMP endogenously. Third, under conditions in which transport of the pyrimidine nucleoside analog 5-fluorodeoxyuridine (FUdR) would inhibit growth, PhtC and PhtD conferred a growth advantage to L. pneumophila thyA(+) strains. Finally, when cultured in macrophages, L. pneumophila required the phtC-phtD locus to replicate. Accordingly, we propose that PhtC and PhtD contribute to protect L. pneumophila from dTMP starvation during its intracellular life cycle.

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