Oligomerization inhibits Legionella pneumophila PlaB phospholipase A activity [Enzymology]

May 8th, 2014 by Kuhle, K., Krausze, J., Curth, U., Rossle, M., Heuner, K., Lang, C., Flieger, A.

The intracellularly replicating lung pathogen L. pneumophila comprises an extraordinary variety of phospholipases including at least 15 different phospholipases A (PLA). Among them, PlaB, the first characterized member of a novel lipase family, is a hemolytic virulence factor that exhibits the most prominent PLA activity in L. pneumophila. We analyzed here protein oligomerization, the importance of oligomerization for activity, addressed further essential regions for activity within the PlaB C-terminus, and the significance of PlaB-derived lipolytic activity for L. pneumophila intracellular replication. We determined by means of analytical ultracentrifugation and small angle X-ray scattering analysis, that PlaB forms homodimers and homotetramers. The C-terminal 5, 10, or 15 amino acids, although the individual regions contributed to PLA activity, were not essential for protein tetramerization. Infection of mouse macrophages with L. pneumophila wild type, plaB knock out mutant, and plaB complementing or various mutated plaB-harboring strains showed that catalytic activity of PlaB promotes intracellular replication. We observed that PlaB was most active in the lower nanomolar concentration range but not or only at a low level at concentrations above 0.1 microM where it exists in a dimer / tetramer equilibrium. We therefore conclude that PlaB is a virulence factor that on the one hand assembles in inactive tetramers at micromolar concentrations. On the other hand, oligomer dissociation at nanomolar concentrations activates PLA activity. Our data highlight the first example of concentration-dependent phospholipase inactivation by tetramerization which may protect the bacterium from internal PLA activity but enzyme dissociation may allow its activation after export.