2023-03-13Zeitschriftenartikel DOI: 10.3390/microorganisms11030738
Legionella pneumophila and Free-Living Nematodes: Environmental Co-Occurrence and Trophic Link
Free-living nematodes harbor and disseminate various soil-borne bacterial pathogens. Whether they function as vectors or environmental reservoirs for the aquatic L. pneumophila, the causative agent of Legionnaires’ disease, is unknown. A survey screening of biofilms of natural (swimming lakes) and technical (cooling towers) water habitats in Germany revealed that nematodes can act as potential reservoirs, vectors or grazers of L. pneumophila in cooling towers. Consequently, the nematode species Plectus similis and L. pneumophila were isolated from the same cooling tower biofilm and taken into a monoxenic culture. Using pharyngeal pumping assays, potential feeding relationships between P. similis and different L. pneumophila strains and mutants were examined and compared with Plectus sp., a species isolated from a L. pneumophila-positive thermal source biofilm. The assays showed that bacterial suspensions and supernatants of the L. pneumophila cooling tower isolate KV02 decreased pumping rate and feeding activity in nematodes. However, assays investigating the hypothesized negative impact of Legionella’s major secretory protein ProA on pumping rate revealed opposite effects on nematodes, which points to a species-specific response to ProA. To extend the food chain by a further trophic level, Acanthamoebae castellanii infected with L. pneumphila KV02 were offered to nematodes. The pumping rates of P. similis increased when fed with L. pneumophila-infected A. castellanii, while Plectus sp. pumping rates were similar when fed either infected or non-infected A. castellanii. This study revealed that cooling towers are the main water bodies where L. pneumophila and free-living nematodes coexist and is the first step in elucidating the trophic links between coexisting taxa from that habitat. Investigating the Legionella–nematode–amoebae interactions underlined the importance of amoebae as reservoirs and transmission vehicles of the pathogen for nematode predators.
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