Legionella pneumophila (Lp) is the agent of Legionnaires'disease, a common and potentially fatal form of pneumonia. Lp is ubiquitous in natural and man-made water systems and infects the lungs after the inhalation of contaminated aerosols. In water and the lungs, Lp grows as an intracellular parasite, infecting either aquatic protozoa or alveolar macrophages. Previously, we demonstrated that Lp expresses a type II secretion (T2S) system that mediates the secretion of >25 proteins (substrates) and is required for optimal infection of both amoebal and mammalian host cells and the murine lung. During the last grant period, we documented that secreted PlaC (an acyltransferase), ProA (a metalloprotease), SrnA (a ribonuclease), NttA, and Lpw18401, and two other """"""""novel"""""""" substrates promote intracellular growth/survival in Acanthamoeba, Hartmannella, and Naegleria amoebae in a unique host-specific fashion. We also demonstrated that T2S and a subset of novel substrates enhance intracellular growth/survival within lung macrophages and likely do so by helping to retain host protein Rab1 on the Legionella-containing vacuole. Finally, among other results, we documented that T2S and at least two of its substrates, i.e., ProA and NttA, dampen the chemokine and cytokine output of infected macrophages, a process that would most likely impede the clearance of Lp from the infected lung. This subversion of cytokine production was due, in part, to dampened signal transduction and cytokine gene transcription. In sum, we have been at the forefront of demonstrating that T2S is critical in all of the major facets of the Lp lifecycle and its associated disease, elaborating more substrates and encoding a wider variety of activities than is currently appreciated for any other bacterial T2S system. In the current proposal, we will now determine i) mechanisms by which PlaC, ProA, SrnA, and NttA and other novel T2S substrates enhance Lp growth in multiple amoebae, which are the essential links in Lp disease transmission from water systems to humans, ii) how T2S and its novel substrates Lpw02811 and Lpw18401 act to modulate Rab1 in macrophages, which are the critical host cell in the Lp-infected mammalian host, and iii) the mechanisms by which T2S and its substrates, including NttA, modulate cytokine signaling in Lp-infected macrophages as well as assess the impact of cytokine subversion on the cellular inflammatory response in the Lp-infected lung. The proposed studies will i) increase significantly our understanding of the pathogenesis of Lp, which is an important and increasing public health concern within the US and throughout the world, ii) expand our molecular understanding of both bacterial protein secretion and intracellular infection, iii) have implications for other important pathogens that utilize or are predicted to use T2S, iv) have implications for other bacteria that are pathogenic by virtue of being intracellular parasites of macrophages, and v) offer potential new targets for disease diagnosis, treatment, or prevention.

Public Health Relevance

Legionella pneumophila (Lp), the bacterial agent of a severe form of pneumonia known as Legionnaires'disease, is an intracellular parasite of amoebae when it is in natural aquatic habitats and an intracellular parasite of macrophages when it is introduced in the lungs. We have documented that the type II secretion (T2S) system of Lp is required for bacterial growth in both amoebae and mammalian host cells as well as in the lungs of experimentally-infected mice. We hypothesize that the proteins (substrates) secreted by the bacterium via T2S are virulence factors and potential targets for disease diagnosis or prevention, and therefore the proposed studies are aimed at determining how T2S substrates, including degradative enzymes and novel, Legionella-species proteins, promote pathogenesis.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Bacterial Pathogenesis Study Section (BACP)
Program Officer
Korpela, Jukka K
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Northwestern University at Chicago
Schools of Medicine
United States
Zip Code
White, Richard C; Gunderson, Felizza F; Tyson, Jessica Y et al. (2018) Type II Secretion-Dependent Aminopeptidase LapA and Acyltransferase PlaC Are Redundant for Nutrient Acquisition during Legionella pneumophila Intracellular Infection of Amoebas. MBio 9:
Mallama, Celeste A; McCoy-Simandle, Kessler; Cianciotto, Nicholas P (2017) The Type II Secretion System of Legionella pneumophila Dampens the MyD88 and Toll-Like Receptor 2 Signaling Pathway in Infected Human Macrophages. Infect Immun 85:
Cianciotto, Nicholas P; White, Richard C (2017) Expanding Role of Type II Secretion in Bacterial Pathogenesis and Beyond. Infect Immun 85:
Truchan, Hilary K; Christman, Harry D; White, Richard C et al. (2017) Type II Secretion Substrates of Legionella pneumophila Translocate Out of the Pathogen-Occupied Vacuole via a Semipermeable Membrane. MBio 8:
White, Richard C; Cianciotto, Nicholas P (2016) Type II Secretion Is Necessary for Optimal Association of the Legionella-Containing Vacuole with Macrophage Rab1B but Enhances Intracellular Replication Mainly by Rab1B-Independent Mechanisms. Infect Immun 84:3313-3327
DuMont, Ashley L; Karaba, Sara M; Cianciotto, Nicholas P (2015) Type II Secretion-Dependent Degradative and Cytotoxic Activities Mediated by Stenotrophomonas maltophilia Serine Proteases StmPr1 and StmPr2. Infect Immun 83:3825-37
Tyson, Jessica Y; Vargas, Paloma; Cianciotto, Nicholas P (2014) The novel Legionella pneumophila type II secretion substrate NttC contributes to infection of amoebae Hartmannella vermiformis and Willaertia magna. Microbiology 160:2732-44
Tyson, Jessica Y; Pearce, Meghan M; Vargas, Paloma et al. (2013) Multiple Legionella pneumophila Type II secretion substrates, including a novel protein, contribute to differential infection of the amoebae Acanthamoeba castellanii, Hartmannella vermiformis, and Naegleria lovaniensis. Infect Immun 81:1399-410
Karaba, Sara M; White, Richard C; Cianciotto, Nicholas P (2013) Stenotrophomonas maltophilia encodes a type II protein secretion system that promotes detrimental effects on lung epithelial cells. Infect Immun 81:3210-9
Gunderson, Felizza F; Cianciotto, Nicholas P (2013) The CRISPR-associated gene cas2 of Legionella pneumophila is required for intracellular infection of amoebae. MBio 4:e00074-13

Showing the most recent 10 out of 42 publications