, Volume 20, Issue 3–4, pp 323–331

Iron Acquisition by Legionella pneumophila



For nearly 20 years, it was believed that Legionellapneumophila does not produce siderophores. Yet, we have now determined that L. pneumophila secretes a siderophore (legiobactin) that is detectable by the CAS assay. We have optimized conditions for legiobactin expression, shown its biological activity, and found genes (lbtAB) involved in its production and secretion. LbtA is homologous with siderophore synthetases from E. coli (aerobactin), Sinorhizobium (rhizobactin), and Bordetella (alcaligin), while LbtB is a member of the major facilitator superfamily of multidrug efflux pumps. Mutants lacking lbtAB produce 40’70% less CAS reactivity. The lbtA mutant is also defective for growth in deferrated media containing citrate, indicating that legiobactin is required in conditions of severe iron limitation. lbtAB mutants grow normally in macrophages and amoebae host cells as well as within the lungs of mice. L. pneumophila does express lbtA in macrophages, suggesting that legiobactin has a dispensable role in infection. Legiobactin is iron repressed and does not react in the Csáky and Arnow assays. Anion-exchange HPLC has been used to purify legiobactin, and thus far, structural analysis suggests that the molecule is similar but not identical to rhizobactin, rhizoferrin, and alcaligin. The residual CAS reactivity present in supernatants of the lbtAB mutants suggests that L. pneumophila might produce a second siderophore. Besides siderophores, we have determined that ferrous iron transport, encoded by feoB, is critical for L. pneumophila growth in low-iron conditions, in host cells, and in the mammalian lung. Some of our other studies have discovered a critical, yet undefined, role for the L. pneumophila cytochrome c maturation locus in low-iron growth, intracellular infection, and virulence.


Legionnaires’ disease Siderophores Legiobactin FeoB Cytochrome c maturation 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Microbiology-ImmunologyNorthwestern University Medical SchoolChicagoUSA

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