Flagellin-deficient Legionella mutants evade caspase-1- and Naip5-mediated macrophage immunity

PLoS Pathog. 2006 Mar;2(3):e18. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.0020018. Epub 2006 Mar 17.


Macrophages from C57BL/6J (B6) mice restrict growth of the intracellular bacterial pathogen Legionella pneumophila. Restriction of bacterial growth requires caspase-1 and the leucine-rich repeat-containing protein Naip5 (Birc1e). We identified mutants of L. pneumophila that evade macrophage innate immunity. All mutants were deficient in expression of flagellin, the primary flagellar subunit, and failed to induce caspase-1-mediated macrophage death. Interestingly, a previously isolated flagellar mutant (fliI) that expresses, but does not assemble, flagellin did not replicate in macrophages, and induced macrophage death. Thus, flagellin itself, not flagella or motility, is required to initiate macrophage innate immunity. Immunity to Legionella did not require MyD88, an essential adaptor for toll-like receptor 5 (TLR5) signaling. Moreover, flagellin of Legionella and Salmonella induced cytotoxicity when delivered to the macrophage cytosol using Escherichia coli as a heterologous host. It thus appears that macrophages sense cytosolic flagellin via a TLR5-independent pathway that leads to rapid caspase-1-dependent cell death and provides defense against intracellular bacterial pathogens.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caspase 1 / physiology*
  • Cell Death / physiology
  • Cytotoxicity, Immunologic / physiology
  • Flagellin / genetics*
  • Flagellin / metabolism*
  • Genotype
  • Immunity / physiology*
  • Legionella / genetics*
  • Legionella / growth & development
  • Legionella / ultrastructure
  • Macrophages / immunology*
  • Macrophages / physiology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Mutation*
  • Neuronal Apoptosis-Inhibitory Protein / physiology*
  • Salmonella / metabolism
  • Toll-Like Receptor 5 / physiology


  • Naip5 protein, mouse
  • Neuronal Apoptosis-Inhibitory Protein
  • Toll-Like Receptor 5
  • Flagellin
  • Caspase 1