Promotion and Rescue of Intracellular Brucella neotomae Replication during Coinfection with Legionella pneumophila

Infect Immun. 2017 Apr 21;85(5):e00991-16. doi: 10.1128/IAI.00991-16. Print 2017 May.


We established a new Brucella neotomaein vitro model system for study of type IV secretion system-dependent (T4SS) pathogenesis in the Brucella genus. Importantly, B. neotomae is a rodent pathogen, and unlike B. abortus, B. melitensis, and B. suis, B. neotomae has not been observed to infect humans. It therefore can be handled more facilely using biosafety level 2 practices. More particularly, using a series of novel fluorescent protein and lux operon reporter systems to differentially label pathogens and track intracellular replication, we confirmed T4SS-dependent intracellular growth of B. neotomae in macrophage cell lines. Furthermore, B. neotomae exhibited early endosomal (LAMP-1) and late endoplasmic reticulum (calreticulin)-associated phagosome maturation. These findings recapitulate prior observations for human-pathogenic Brucella spp. In addition, during coinfection experiments with Legionella pneumophila, we found that defective intracellular replication of a B. neotomae T4SS virB4 mutant was rescued and baseline levels of intracellular replication of wild-type B. neotomae were significantly stimulated by coinfection with wild-type but not T4SS mutant L. pneumophila Using confocal microscopy, it was determined that intracellular colocalization of B. neotomae and L. pneumophila was required for rescue and that colocalization came at a cost to L. pneumophila fitness. These findings were not completely expected based on known temporal and qualitative differences in the intracellular life cycles of these two pathogens. Taken together, we have developed a new system for studying in vitroBrucella pathogenesis and found a remarkable T4SS-dependent interplay between Brucella and Legionella during macrophage coinfection.

Keywords: Brucella; Legionella pneumophila; coinfection; fluorescent image analysis; intracellular pathogens; pathogenesis; phagosomes; reporter genes; type IV secretion system.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brucella / growth & development*
  • Cell Line
  • Coinfection
  • Humans
  • Legionella pneumophila / growth & development*
  • Macrophages / microbiology*
  • Mice
  • Microbial Interactions
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Phagosomes / microbiology