CRC 235 Emergence of Life

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Metabolic adaption of Legionella pneumophila during intracellular growth in Acanthamoeba castellanii

M. Kunze 2021 IJMM


Mareike Kunze, Thomas Steiner, Fan Chen, Claudia Huber, Kerstin Rydzewski, Maren Stämmler, Klaus Heuner, and Wolfgang Eisenreich

International Journal of Medical Microbiology


The metabolism of Legionella pneumophila strain Paris was elucidated during different time intervals of growth within its natural host Acanthamoeba castellanii. For this purpose, the amoebae were supplied after bacterial infection (t =0 h) with 11 mM [U-13C6]glucose or 3 mM [U-13C3]serine, respectively, during 0−17 h, 17−25 h, or 25−27 h of incubation. At the end of these time intervals, bacterial and amoebal fractions were separated. Each of these fractions was hydrolyzed under acidic conditions. 13C-Enrichments and isotopologue distributions of resulting amino acids and 3-hydroxybutyrate were determined by gas chromatography – mass spectrometry. Comparative analysis of the labelling patterns revealed the substrate preferences, metabolic pathways, and relative carbon fluxes of the intracellular bacteria and their amoebal host during the time course of the infection cycle. Generally, the bacterial infection increased the usage of exogenous glucose via glycolysis by A. castellanii. In contrast, carbon fluxes via the amoebal citrate cycle were not affected. During the whole infection cycle, intracellular L. pneumophila incorporated amino acids from their host into the bacterial proteins. However, partial bacterial de novo biosynthesis from exogenous 13C-Ser and, at minor rates, from 13C-glucose could be shown for bacterial Ala, Asp, Glu, and Gly. More specifically, the catabolic usage of Ser increased during the post-exponential phase of intracellular growth, whereas glucose was utilized by the bacteria throughout the infection cycle and not only late during infection as assumed on the basis of earlier in vitro experiments. The early usage of 13C-glucose by the intracellular bacteria suggests that glucose availability could serve as a trigger for replication of L. pneumophila inside the vacuoles of host cells.