Many intracellular bacterial pathogens use freshwater protozoans as a natural reservoir for proliferation in the environment. Legionella pneumophila, the causative agent of Legionnaires' pneumonia, gains a pathogenic advantage over in vitro cultured bacteria when first harvested from protozoan cells prior to infection of mammalian macrophages. This suggests that important virulence factors may not be properly expressed in vitro. We have developed a tractable system for priming L. pneumophila through its natural protozoan host Acanthamoeba castellanii prior to mammalian cell infection. The contribution of any virulence factor can be examined by comparing intracellular growth of a mutant strain to wild-type bacteria after protozoan priming. GFP-expressing wild-type and mutant L. pneumophila strains are used to infect protozoan monolayers in a priming step and allowed to reach late stages of intracellular growth. Fluorescent bacteria are then harvested from these infected cells and normalized by spectrophotometry to generate comparable numbers of bacteria for a subsequent infection into mammalian macrophages. For quantification, live bacteria are monitored after infection using fluorescence microscopy, flow cytometry, and by colony plating. This technique highlights and relies on the contribution of host cell-dependent gene expression by mimicking the environment that would be encountered in a natural acquisition route. This approach can be modified to accommodate any bacterium that uses an intermediary host as a means for gaining a pathogenic advantage.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Chemical Engineering(all)
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Immunology and Microbiology(all)