The resistance of intra-amoebal grown legionella pneumophila
Survival studies were conducted on Legionella pneumophila cells that had been grown intracellulary in Acanthamoeba polyphaga and then exposed to polyhexamethylene biguanide (PHMB), benzisothiazolone (BIT), 5-chloro-N-methylisothiazolone (CMIT) and tetradecyltrimethyl ammonium bromide (TTAB). Susceptibilities were also determined for L.pneumophila grown under nutrient sufficient and iron-, nitrogen- and phosphate-depleted conditions, in a chemically defined medium. BIT was relatively ineffective against cells grown under iron-depletion; in contrast iron-depleted conditions increased the susceptibilities of cells to PHMB, TTAB and CMIT. Cells grown under phosphate-depletion showed a marked increase in sensitivity towards all the biocides. Conversely, the activities of all four biocides were greatly reduced against L.pneumophila grown in amoebae. To study the physiological basis for the increased resistance of intra-amoebal grown legionella, the surface properties of the cells were examined by studying outer membrane proteins (OMs), lipopolysaccharides and cellular fatty acids. Intra-amoebal grown legionella were found to differ in several respects compared to cells grown in vitro; they contained a novel 15-kDal OM protein and a monosaturated straight-chain fatty acid (18:19). These compounds were also found in abundant quantities in the host amoeba. Intra-amoebal grown legionella contained more LPS bands than did in vitro grown organisms and were less susceptible to protease K digestion. Cells grown under phosphate depletion were markedly sensitive to protease K digestion and contained lower levels of LPS. Immunoblot analysis of intra-amoebal grown legionella with anti-acanthamoebal serum revealed that both the surface of the bacteria and sarkosyl extracted OMs contained amoebal proteins. These findings suggest that the 15-kDal OM protein is likely to be of amoebal origin and binds tightly to the OM of the bacterium. It is proposed that disruption of amoebal membranes, as a result of intra-amoebal infection liberates macromolecules, including a 15-kDal polypeptide, a major constituent of the membrane, which associates closely with the surface of the legionellae. Thus L.pneumophila which have extraneous membrane material bound to their surface may respond differently to biocide inactivation, as these macromolecules may act as a penetration barrier to such agents. This phenomenon could contribute to the recalcitrance of legionellae in water systems.