Periplasmic copper-zinc superoxide dismutase of Legionella pneumophila: Role in stationary-phase survival

Gregory St. John, Howard M. Steinman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Scopus citations


Copper-zinc superoxide dismutases (CuZnSODs) are infrequently found in bacteria although widespread in eukaryotes. Legionella pneumophila, the causative organism of Legionnaires' disease, is one of a small number of bacterial species that contain a CuZnSOD, residing in the periplasm, in addition to an iron SOD (FeSOD) in their cytoplasm. To investigate CuZnSOD function, we purified the enzyme from wild-type L. pneumophila, obtained amino acid sequence data from isolated peptides, cloned and sequenced the gene from a L. pneumophila library, and then constructed and characterized a CuZnSOD null mutant. In contrast to the cytoplasmic FeSOD, the CuZnSOD of L. pneumophila is not essential for viability. However, CuZnSOD is critical fur survival during the stationary phase of growth. The CuZnSOD null mutant survived 104- to 106-fold less than wild-type L. pneumophila. In wild-type L. pneumophila, the specific activity of CuZnSOD increased during the transition from exponential to stationary-phase growth while the FeSOD activity was constant. These data support a role of periplasmic CuZnSOD in survival of L. pneumophila during stationary phase. Since L. pneumophila survives extensive periods of dormancy between growth within hosts, CuZnSOD may contribute to the ability of this bacterium to be a pathogen. In exponential phase, wild-type and CuZnSOD null strains grew with comparable doubling times. In cultured HL-60 and THP-1 macrophage-like cell lines and in primary cultures of human monocytes, multiplication of the CuZnSOD null mutant was comparable to that of wild type. This indicated that CuZnSOD is not essential for intracellular growth within macrophages or for killing of macrophages in those systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1578-1584
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Bacteriology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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