Adherence of Legionella pneumophila to U-937 cells, guinea-pig alveolar macrophages, and MRC-5 cells by a novel, complement-independent binding mechanism

Can J Microbiol. 1994 Oct;40(10):865-72. doi: 10.1139/m94-137.


In the absence of serum, Legionella pneumophila demonstrated wash-resistant adherence to U-937 cells, primary guinea-pig alveolar macrophages, and MRC-5 cells. Neither complement nor antibody was required for binding. The dynamics of adherence following inoculation of L. pneumophila at increasing 10-fold multiplicities of infection to each of the three host cell types resulted in a first-order kinetic relationship of binding, indicative of one bacterial adhesin molecule recognized by one host cell receptor moiety. Host cell receptor saturation studies showed that depending on the cell type, 2-8% of the bacterial inoculum adhered to cells under these nonopsonic conditions. Preliminary adhesin and receptor characterization studies were performed to define the chemical composition of the binding structures on both the organism and the three different host cell surfaces. The adherence phenomenon was investigated using competitive binding assays in the presence of putative adhesin analogs as well as following treatments modifying the microbial and host cell surface membranes. Attachment was evaluated both by viable bacterial cell colony counts and by indirect immunofluorescent assay. With the exception of aldehyde treatments, the various membrane-modifying regimes and the presence of the adhesin analogs were shown to have no effect on organism or host cell viability. Data suggested that the L. pneumophila adhesin responsible for opsonin-independent binding to these host cells was a protein structure with lectin-like properties. Furthermore, this protein would appear to be intimately associated with carbohydrate or lipid structures located on the bacterial outer membrane.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adhesins, Bacterial / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antibody Specificity
  • Bacterial Adhesion / physiology*
  • Binding, Competitive
  • Cell Line
  • Fibroblasts
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Legionella pneumophila / metabolism
  • Legionella pneumophila / physiology*
  • Macrophages, Alveolar / microbiology*
  • Receptors, Complement / physiology
  • Receptors, Immunologic / metabolism*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Adhesins, Bacterial
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Receptors, Complement
  • Receptors, Immunologic
  • bacterial adhesin receptor