The Legionella pneumophila icm locus: a set of genes required for intracellular multiplication in human macrophages

Mol Microbiol. 1994 Nov;14(4):797-808. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.1994.tb01316.x.


Legionella pneumophila, the causative agent of Legionnaires' disease and related pneumonias, infects, replicates within and eventually kills human macrophages. A key feature of the intracellular life-style is the ability of the organism to replicate within a specialized phagosome which does not fuse with lysosomes or acidify. Avirulent mutants that are defective in intracellular multiplication and host-cell killing are unable to prevent phagosome-lysosome fusion. In a previous study, a 12 kb fragment of the L. pneumophila genome containing the icm locus (intracellular multiplication) was found to enable the mutant bacteria to prevent phagosome-lysosome fusion, to multiply intracellularly and to kill human macrophages. The complemented mutant also regained the ability to produce lethal pneumonia in guinea-pigs. In order to gain information about how L. pneumophila prevents phagosome-lysosome fusion and alters other intracellular events, we have studied the region containing the icm locus. This locus contains four genes, icmWXYZ, which appear to be transcribed from a single promoter to produce a 2.1-2.4 kb mRNA. The deduced amino acid sequences of the Icm proteins do not exhibit significant similarity to other proteins of known sequence, suggesting that they may carry out novel functions. The icmX gene encodes a product with an apparent signal sequence suggesting that it is a secreted protein. The icmWXYZ genes are located adjacent to and on the opposite strand from the dot gene, which is also required for intracellular multiplication and the ability of L. pneumophila to modify organelle traffic in human macrophages. Five L. pneumophila Icm mutants that had been generated with transposon Tn903dIIlacZ were found to have inserted the transposon within the icmX, icmY, icmZ and dot genes, confirming their role in the ability of the organism to multiply intracellularly.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Base Sequence
  • Cell Division / genetics
  • Cell Line
  • DNA Primers / genetics
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • Gene Expression
  • Genes, Bacterial*
  • Genetic Complementation Test
  • Humans
  • Legionella pneumophila / genetics*
  • Legionella pneumophila / growth & development*
  • Macrophages / microbiology*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutagenesis, Insertional
  • Restriction Mapping
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • DNA Primers
  • DNA, Bacterial

Associated data

  • GENBANK/U07354