Biopolis Dresden Imaging Platform

Legionella pneumophila carrying the virulence-associated lipopolysaccharide epitope possesses two functionally different LPS components.

Reichardt K, Jacobs E, Röske I, Helbig JH

Phase-variable expression of Legionella pneumophila lipopolysaccharide (LPS) has not been described in detail for strains possessing the virulence-associated epitope recognized by the monoclonal antibody (mAb) 3/1 of the Dresden Panel. About 75?% of cases of community-acquired legionellosis are caused by mAb 3/1-positive strains. In this study, the LPS architecture of the mAb 3/1-positive Corby strain was investigated during its life cycle in broth culture and inside monocytic host cells. During the exponential growth phase in broth, the highly acetylated and therefore strongly hydrophobic mAb 3/1 epitope is expressed continuously, but only 3?% of the bacteria can be detected using mAb 59/1, which recognizes a short-chain variant of the Legionella LPS that is less hydrophobic due to missing acetylations of the O-chain. The percentage of mAb 59/1-positive legionellae increases up to 34?% in the post-exponential growth phase. LPS shed in broth during the exponential phase is mAb 59/1-negative, and mAb 3/1-positive components do not possess short-chain molecules. The LPS pattern expressed and shed inside U937 cells and A/J mouse macrophages points to the same regulatory mechanisms. During the so-called 'pregnant pause', the period for establishment of the replicative phagosomes, the mAb 3/1-positive LPS is shed into the phagosome and seems to pass through the phagosomal membrane, while mAb 59/1-positive LPS is detectable only on the bacterial surface. After egress of the legionellae into the cytoplasm followed by host cell lysis, individual bacteria are mAb 3/1-positive and mAb 59/1-negative. Intracellularly formed Legionella clusters consist of surface-located mAb 3/1-positive bacteria, which are predominantly mAb 59/1-negative. They surround less hydrophobic and therefore closely packed mAb 59/1-positive bacteria. Based on the different degrees of hydrophobicity, bacteria are able to support the expression of two functionally different LPS architectures, namely more hydrophobic LPS for surviving in aerosols and more hydrophilic LPS for close-packing of legionellae inside clusters.

Fig.6 taken from Reichardt et al, 2010.
  • Microbiology (Reading, Engl.) 2010 Oct 23;156(Pt 10):2953-61
  • 2010
  • Medical Biology
  • 20656784
  • PubMed

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