Legionnaires’ disease and its agent Legionella pneumophila

  • Dina M. Bitar
  • Marina Santic
  • Yousef Abu Kwaik
  • Maëlle Molmeret
Part of the Birkhäuser Advances in Infectious Diseases book series (BAID)


Legionella pneumophila, the agent responsible for Legionnaire’s disease, is a facultative intracellular pathogen that can replicate within protozoa and macrophages. Protozoa are considered to play a central role in the pathogenesis and ecology of L. pneumophila. In humans, L. pneumophila reaches the lungs, where it is ingested by alveolar macrophages. Unlike phagosomes containing inert particles or avirulent bacteria, the L. pneumophila-containing vacuoles avoid fusion with lysosomes, recruiting rough endoplasmic reticulum and mitochondria. The formation of this specialized vacuole is directed by the type IV secretion system encoded by the dot/icm genes in mammalian and protozoan cells. Killing of mammalian cells by L. pneumophila has been proposed to occur through induction of apoptosis during the early stages of the infection. A rapid induction of necrosis by L. pneumophila also occurs upon entry into the post-exponential phase of growth within both macrophages and protozoa, when the bacteria become cytotoxic. Before the lysis of the mammalian or protozoan plasma membrane, the bacteria egress into the cytoplasm. In vivo, clearance of Legionella from the lungs depends on the host production of IFN-γ in A/J mice, while in BALB/c mice IFN-γ is not produced. Intracellular replication of L. pneumophila is inhibited in IFN-γ-activated mouse and human primary macrophages. Both antigen-specific humoral and cell-mediated immune responses are induced during Legionella infection. Although Legionella-specific antibodies are produced during human or murine infection, acquired cell-mediated immune response is believed to play a stronger role in Legionella clearance. Both macrophages and DCs are able to present microbial antigens on major histocompatibility class I and class II molecules, which stimulate antigen-specific T-cell response. Identification of antigens and determination of vesicular trafficking mechanisms involved in processing and presentation remain to be understood in greater detail.


Secretion System Intracellular Growth Intracellular Replication Acanthamoeba Castellanii Phagosomal Membrane 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag Basel/Switzerland 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dina M. Bitar
    • 1
  • Marina Santic
    • 2
  • Yousef Abu Kwaik
    • 3
  • Maëlle Molmeret
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Microbiology and Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, Faculty of MedicineAl-Quds UniversityJerusalemIsrael
  2. 2.Department of Microbiology and Parasitology, Medical FacultyUniversity of RijekaCroatia
  3. 3.Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Room MS-410University of LouisvilleLouisvilleUSA

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