†Present address: Department of Molecular Biology, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544-1014, USA.
A two-component regulator induces the transmission phenotype of stationary-phase Legionella pneumophila
Article first published online: 20 APR 2002
Volume 44, Issue 1, pages 107–118, April 2002
How to Cite
Hammer, B. K., Tateda, E. S. and Swanson, M. S. (2002), A two-component regulator induces the transmission phenotype of stationary-phase Legionella pneumophila. Molecular Microbiology, 44: 107–118. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2958.2002.02884.x
- Issue published online: 20 APR 2002
- Article first published online: 20 APR 2002
Pathogenic Legionella pneumophila evolved as a parasite of aquatic amoebae. To persist in the environment, the microbe must be proficient at both replication and transmission. In laboratory cultures, as nutrients become scarce a stringent response-like pathway coordinates exit from the exponential growth phase with induction of traits correlated with virulence, including motility. A screen for mutants that express the flagellin gene poorly identified five activators of virulence: LetA/LetS, a two-component regulator homologous to GacA/GacS of Pseudomonas and SirA/BarA of Salmonella; the stationary-phase sigma factor RpoS; the flagellar sigma factor FliA; and a new locus, letE. Unlike wild type, post-exponential-phase letA and letS mutants were not motile, cytotoxic, sodium sensitive or proficient at infecting macrophages. L. pneumophila also required fliA to become motile, cytotoxic and to infect macrophages efficiently and letE to express sodium sensitivity and maximal motility and cytotoxicity. When induced to express RelA, all of the strains exited the exponential phase, but only wild type converted to the fully virulent form. In contrast, intracellular replication was independent of letA, letS, letE or fliA. Together, the data indicate that, as the nutrient supply wanes, ppGpp triggers a regulatory cascade mediated by LetA/ LetS, RpoS, FliA and letE that coordinates differentiation of replicating L. pneumophila to a transmissible form.