Defence mechanisms against intracellular bacterial pathogens are incompletely understood. Our study characterizes a type I IFN-dependent cell-autonomous defence pathway directed against Legionella pneumophila, an intracellular model organism and frequent cause of pneumonia. We show that macrophages infected with L. pneumophila produced IFNβ in a STING- and IRF3- dependent manner. Paracrine type I IFNs stimulated upregulation of IFN-stimulated genes and a cell-autonomous defence pathway acting on replicating and non-replicating Legionella within their specialized vacuole. Our infection experiments in mice lacking receptors for type I and/or II IFNs show that type I IFNs contribute to expression of IFN-stimulated genes and to bacterial clearance as well as resistance in L. pneumophila pneumonia in addition to type II IFN. Overall, our study shows that paracrine type I IFNs mediate defence against L. pneumophila, and demonstrates a protective role of type I IFNs in in vivo infections with intracellular bacteria.
© 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.