Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 31053752
Genes Immun. 2019 May;20(5):394-402.
Legionella pneumophila is an intracellular pathogen that causes a severe pneumonia called Legionnaires’ disease that is often fatal when not promptly diagnosed and treated. However, L. pneumophila is mainly an environmental pathogen of protozoa. This bacterium parasitizes free-living amoeba and other aquatic protozoa with which it co-evolved over an evolutionary long time. Due to the close relationship between hosts and pathogens, their co-evolution leads to molecular interactions such as the exchange of genetic material through horizontal gene transfer (HGT). Those genes that confer an advantage to the bacteria were fixed in their genomes and help these pathogens to subvert host functions to their advantage. Genome sequencing of L. pneumophila and recently of the entire genus Legionella that comprises over 60 species revealed that Legionellae have co-opted genes and thus cellular functions from their eukaryotic hosts to a surprisingly high extent never observed before for an prokaryotic organism. Acquisition and loss of these eukaryotic-like genes and eukaryotic domains is an ongoing process underlining the highly dynamic nature of the Legionella genomes. Although the large amount and diversity of HGT that occurred between Legionella and their protozoan hosts seems to be unique in the prokaryotic world, the analyses of more and more genomes from environmental organisms and symbionts of amoeba revealed that such genetic exchanges occur among all amoeba-associated bacteria and also among the different microorganisms that infect amoeba such as viruses. This dynamic reshuffling and gene-acquisition has led to the emergence of major human pathogens such as Legionella and may lead to the emergence of new human pathogens from the environment.