Legionella pneumophila mutants that are defective for iron acquisition and assimilation and intracellular infection

C. Dumais Pope, William A. O'Connell, Nicholas P. Cianciotto*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


Legionella pneumophila, a parasite of macrophages and protozoa, requires iron for optimal extracellular and intracellular growth. However, its mechanisms of iron acquisition remain uncharacterized. Using mini-Tn10 mutagenesis, we isolated 17 unique L. pneumophila strains which appeared to be defective for into acquisition and assimilation. Eleven of these mutants were both sensitive to the iron chelator ethylenediamine di(o- hydroxyphenylacetic acid) and resistant to streptonigrin, an antibiotic whose lethal effect requires high levels of intracellular iron. Six mutants were also defective for the infection of macrophage-like U937 cells. Although none were altered in entry, mutants generally exhibited prolonged lag phases and in some cases replicated at slower rates. Overall, the reduced recoveries of mutants, relative to that of the wild type, ranged from 3- to 1,000-fold. Strain NU216, the mutant displaying the most severe lag phase and the slowest rate of replication, was studied further. Importantly, within U937 cells, NU216 was approximately 100-fold more sensitive than the wild type was to treatment with the Fe3+ chelator deferoxamine, indicating that it is defective far intracellular iron acquisition and assimilation. Furthermore, this strain was unable to mediate any cytopathic effect and was impaired for infectivity of an amoebal host. Taken together, the isolation of these mutants offers genetic proof that iron acquisition and assimilation are critical for intracellular infection by L. pneumophila.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)629-636
Number of pages8
JournalInfection and immunity
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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