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Infect Immun. 1993 Aug;61(8):3503-10.

Influence of intra-amoebic and other growth conditions on the surface properties of Legionella pneumophila.

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Birmingham Regional Public Health Laboratory, Heartlands Hospital, United Kingdom.


The surface properties of Legionella pneumophila were examined by analyzing outer membrane (OM) proteins, lipopolysaccharides (LPS), and cellular fatty acids after growth within Acanthamoeba polyphaga and in vitro under various nutrient-depleted conditions. Intra-amoeba-grown legionellae were found to differ in several respects from cells grown in vitro; most notably, they contained a 15-kDa OM protein and a monounsaturated straight-chain fatty acid (18:1(9)). These compounds were also found in abundant quantities in the host amoeba. Immunoblot analysis of intra-amoeba-grown legionellae with antiacanthamoebic serum revealed that both the bacterial whole cells and Sarkosyl-extracted OMs contained amoebic antigens. The findings suggest that the 15-kDa OM protein is likely to be of amoebic origin and associates with the OM of the bacterium. It is proposed that disruption of amoebic membranes, as a result of intra-amoebic infection, may liberate macromolecules, including a 15-kDa polypeptide, a major constituent of the amoebic membrane, which adhere to the surface of the legionellae. Growth under specific nutrient depletions also had a significant effect on the surface composition of L. pneumophila. Cells grown under phosphate depletion were markedly sensitive to protease K digestion and contained lower levels of LPS, as observed by silver staining of the digests on polyacrylamide gels. Intra-amoeba-grown cells contained more bands than the in vitro-grown organisms, reflecting further differences in the nature of the LPS. The whole-cell fatty acids of the phosphate-depleted cells were appreciably different from those of cells grown under other nutritional conditions. We found no evidence for expression of iron-regulated OM proteins under iron depletion.

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