Legionella pneumophila is an aquatic bacterium that is also the agent of Legionnaires' disease pneumonia. Since L. pneumophila is transmitted directly from the environment to the lung, it is important to understand how legionellae survive at low temperatures. To identify genes that are needed for L. pneumophila growth at low temperature, we screened a population of mutagenized legionellae for strains that are specifically impaired for growth at 17°C. From the 7,400 mutants tested, 11 displayed defects ranging from ca. 10-fold to a complete inability to grow at the low temperature. PCR and sequence analysis were then utilized to identify the genes whose loss had compromised growth. The proteins thereby implicated in low-temperature growth included components of the type II secretion system (LspE, LspG, LspH), a lipid A biosynthetic enzyme (LpxP), a ribonuclease (RNAse R), an RNA helicase (CsdA/DeaD), TCA cycle enzymes (citrate synthase), enzymes linked to fatty acid (FadB) or amino acid (aspartate aminotransferase) catabolism, and two putative membrane proteins that were, based upon their sequences, unlike previously characterized proteins. Given the magnitude of their mutant's defect, the aspartate aminotransferase, RNA helicase, and one of the putative membrane proteins were the factors most critical for L. pneumophila low-temperature growth. Thus, L. pneumophila not only employs some of the same processes and factors as other bacteria do in order to survive at low temperatures (e.g., LpxP, CsdA), but it also appears to possess novel modes of cold adaptation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology