Multiple Legionella pneumophila Type II secretion substrates, including a novel protein, contribute to differential infection of the amoebae Acanthamoeba castellanii, Hartmannella vermiformis, and Naegleria lovaniensis

Infect Immun. 2013 May;81(5):1399-410. doi: 10.1128/IAI.00045-13. Epub 2013 Feb 19.


Type II protein secretion (T2S) by Legionella pneumophila is required for intracellular infection of host cells, including macrophages and the amoebae Acanthamoeba castellanii and Hartmannella vermiformis. Previous proteomic analysis revealed that T2S by L. pneumophila 130b mediates the export of >25 proteins, including several that appeared to be novel. Following confirmation that they are unlike known proteins, T2S substrates NttA, NttB, and LegP were targeted for mutation. nttA mutants were impaired for intracellular multiplication in A. castellanii but not H. vermiformis or macrophages, suggesting that novel exoproteins which are specific to Legionella are especially important for infection. Because the importance of NttA was host cell dependent, we examined a panel of T2S substrate mutants that had not been tested before in more than one amoeba. As a result, RNase SrnA, acyltransferase PlaC, and metalloprotease ProA all proved to be required for optimal intracellular multiplication in H. vermiformis but not A. castellanii. Further examination of an lspF mutant lacking the T2S apparatus documented that T2S is also critical for infection of the amoeba Naegleria lovaniensis. Mutants lacking SrnA, PlaC, or ProA, but not those deficient for NttA, were defective in N. lovaniensis. Based upon analysis of a double mutant lacking PlaC and ProA, the role of ProA in H. vermiformis was connected to its ability to activate PlaC, whereas in N. lovaniensis, ProA appeared to have multiple functions. Together, these data document that the T2S system exports multiple effectors, including a novel one, which contribute in different ways to the broad host range of L. pneumophila.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Acanthamoeba castellanii / microbiology*
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Blotting, Southern
  • DNA, Bacterial / analysis
  • Hartmannella / microbiology*
  • Humans
  • Legionella pneumophila / genetics
  • Legionella pneumophila / growth & development
  • Legionella pneumophila / metabolism*
  • Macrophages / microbiology
  • Naegleria / microbiology*
  • RNA, Bacterial / analysis
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • DNA, Bacterial
  • RNA, Bacterial