Legionella Phospholipases Implicated in Virulence

Curr Top Microbiol Immunol. 2013;376:175-209. doi: 10.1007/82_2013_348.


Phospholipases are diverse enzymes produced in eukaryotic hosts and their bacterial pathogens. Several pathogen phospholipases have been identified as major virulence factors acting mainly in two different modes: on the one hand, they have the capability to destroy host membranes and on the other hand they are able to manipulate host signaling pathways. Reaction products of bacterial phospholipases may act as secondary messengers within the host and therefore influence inflammatory cascades and cellular processes, such as proliferation, migration, cytoskeletal changes as well as membrane traffic. The lung pathogen and intracellularly replicating bacterium Legionella pneumophila expresses a variety of phospholipases potentially involved in disease-promoting processes. So far, genes encoding 15 phospholipases A, three phospholipases C, and one phospholipase D have been identified. These cell-associated or secreted phospholipases may contribute to intracellular establishment, to egress of the pathogen from the host cell, and to the observed lung pathology. Due to the importance of phospholipase activities for host cell processes, it is conceivable that the pathogen enzymes may mimic or substitute host cell phospholipases to drive processes for the pathogen's benefit. The following chapter summarizes the current knowledge on the L. pneumophila phospholipases, especially their substrate specificity, localization, mode of secretion, and impact on host cells.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Legionella pneumophila / enzymology*
  • Legionella pneumophila / pathogenicity*
  • Phospholipases / analysis
  • Phospholipases / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Substrate Specificity
  • Virulence


  • Phospholipases