Iron Acquisition by Legionella pneumophila

Nicholas P. Cianciotto*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


For nearly 20 years, it was believed that Legionella pneumophila does not produce siderophores. Yet, we have now determined that L. pneumophila secretes a siderophore (legiobactin) that is detectable by the CAS assay. We have optimized conditions for legiobactin expression, shown its biological activity, and found genes (lbtAB) involved in its production and secretion. LbtA is homologous with siderophore synthetases from E. coli (aerobactin), Sinorhizobium (rhizobactin), and Bordetella (alcaligin), while LbtB is a member of the major facilitator superfamily of multidrug efflux pumps. Mutants lacking lbtAB produce 40-70% less CAS reactivity. The lbtA mutant is also defective for growth in deferrated media containing citrate, indicating that legiobactin is required in conditions of severe iron limitation. lbtAB mutants grow normally in macrophages and amoebae host cells as well as within the lungs of mice. L. pneumophila does express lbtA in macrophages, suggesting that legiobactin has a dispensable role in infection. Legiobactin is iron repressed and does not react in the Csáky and Arnow assays. Anion-exchange HPLC has been used to purify legiobactin, and thus far, structural analysis suggests that the molecule is similar but not identical to rhizobactin, rhizoferrin, and alcaligin. The residual CAS reactivity present in supernatants of the lbtAB mutants suggests that L. pneumophila might produce a second siderophore. Besides siderophores, we have determined that ferrous iron transport, encoded by feoB, is critical for L. pneumophila growth in low-iron conditions, in host cells, and in the mammalian lung. Some of our other studies have discovered a critical, yet undefined, role for the L. pneumophila cytochrome c maturation locus in low-iron growth, intracellular infection, and virulence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)323-331
Number of pages9
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Jun 2007


  • Cytochrome c maturation
  • FeoB
  • Legiobactin
  • Legionnaires' disease
  • Siderophores

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomaterials
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Metals and Alloys


Dive into the research topics of 'Iron Acquisition by Legionella pneumophila'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this