From Amoeba to Macrophages: Exploring the Molecular Mechanisms of Legionella Pneumophila Infection in Both Hosts

Curr Top Microbiol Immunol. 2013;376:1-34. doi: 10.1007/82_2013_351.


Legionella pneumophila is a Gram-negative bacterium and the causative agent of Legionnaires' disease. It replicates within amoeba and infects accidentally human macrophages. Several similarities are seen in the L. pneumophila-infection cycle in both hosts, suggesting that the tools necessary for macrophage infection may have evolved during co-evolution of L. pneumophila and amoeba. The establishment of the Legionella-containing vacuole (LCV) within the host cytoplasm requires the remodeling of the LCV surface and the hijacking of vesicles and organelles. Then L. pneumophila replicates in a safe intracellular niche in amoeba and macrophages. In this review we will summarize the existing knowledge of the L. pneumophila infection cycle in both hosts at the molecular level and compare the factors involved within amoeba and macrophages. This knowledge will be discussed in the light of recent findings from the Acanthamoeba castellanii genome analyses suggesting the existence of a primitive immune-like system in amoeba.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amoeba / microbiology*
  • Endocytosis
  • Humans
  • Legionella pneumophila / pathogenicity
  • Legionnaires' Disease / immunology*
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Macrophages / microbiology*
  • Phagocytosis
  • Vacuoles / microbiology