Legionella pneumophila Type II Protein Secretion Promotes Virulence in the A/J Mouse Model of Legionnaires' Disease Pneumonia

Ombeline Rossier, Shawn R. Starkenburg, Nicholas P. Cianciotto*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

110 Scopus citations


Legionella pneumophila, the gram-negative agent of Legionnaires' disease, possesses type IV pili and a type II protein secretion (Lsp) system, both of which are dependent upon the PilD prepilin peptidase. By analyzing multiple pilD mutants and various types of Lsp mutants as well as performing trans-complementation of these mutants, we have confirmed that PilD and type II secretion genes are required for L. pneumophila infection of both amoebae and human macrophages. Based upon a complete analysis of lspDE, lspF, and lspG mutants, we found that the type II system controls the secretion of protease, RNase, lipase, phospholipase A, phospholipase C, lysophospholipase A, and tartrate-sensitive and tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase activities and influences the appearance of colonies. Examination of the developing L. pneumophila genome database indicated that the organism has two other loci (lspC and lspLM) that are predicted to promote secretion and thus a set of genes that is comparable to the type II secretion genes in other gram-negative bacteria. In contrast to lsp mutants, L. pneumophila pilus mutants lacking either the PilQ secretin, the PspA pseudopilin, or pilin were not defective for colonial growth, secreted activities, or intracellular replication. L. pneumophila dot/icm mutants were also not impaired for type II-dependent exoenzymes. Upon intratracheal inoculation into A/J mice, lspDE, lspF, and pilD mutants, but not pilus mutants, exhibited a reduced ability to grow in the lung, as measured by competition assays. The lspF mutant was also defective in an in vivo kinetic assay. Examination of infected mouse sera revealed that type II secreted proteins are expressed in vivo. Thus, the L. pneumophila Lsp system is a virulence factor and the only type II secretion system linked to intracellular infection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)310-321
Number of pages12
JournalInfection and immunity
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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