Formation of a pathogen vacuole according to Legionella pneumophila: how to kill one bird with many stones

Cell Microbiol. 2015 Jul;17(7):935-50. doi: 10.1111/cmi.12450. Epub 2015 May 13.


Legionella species are ubiquitous, waterborne bacteria that thrive in numerous ecological niches. Yet, in contrast to many other environmental bacteria, Legionella spp. are also able to grow intracellularly in predatory protozoa. This feature mainly accounts for the pathogenicity of Legionella pneumophila, which causes the majority of clinical cases of a severe pneumonia termed Legionnaires' disease. The pathomechanism underlying L. pneumophila infection is based on macrophage resistance, which in turn is largely defined by the opportunistic pathogen's resistance towards amoebae. L. pneumophila replicates in macrophages or amoebae in a unique membrane-bound compartment, the Legionella-containing vacuole (LCV). LCV formation requires the bacterial intracellular multiplication/defective for organelle trafficking (Icm/Dot) type IV secretion system and involves a plethora of translocated effector proteins, which subvert pivotal processes in the host cell. Of the ca. 300 different experimentally validated Icm/Dot substrates, about 50 have been studied and attributed a cellular function to date. The versatility and ingenuity of these effectors' mode of actions is striking. In this review, we summarize insight into the cellular functions and biochemical activities of well-characterized L. pneumophila effector proteins and the host pathways they target. Recent studies not only substantially increased our knowledge about pathogen-host interactions, but also shed light on novel biological mechanisms.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amoeba / parasitology
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions*
  • Humans
  • Legionella pneumophila / growth & development*
  • Legionella pneumophila / immunology
  • Models, Biological
  • Phagocytes / immunology
  • Phagocytes / microbiology*
  • Vacuoles / metabolism*
  • Vacuoles / microbiology*
  • Virulence Factors / metabolism*


  • Virulence Factors