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Brunel et al. Sci. Rep. 2016

Trans-translation in Legionella

Brunel, R., and X. Charpentier. 2016. Trans-translation is essential in the human pathogen Legionella pneumophila. Scientific Reports 6 : 37935., 10.1038/srep37935

Trans-translation promotes resistance to ribosome-targeting antibiotics

Trans-translation is a ubiquitous bacterial mechanism for ribosome rescue in the event of translation stalling. Although trans-translation is not essential in several bacterial species, it has been found essential for viability or virulence in a wide range of pathogens. We describe here that trans-translation is essential in the human pathogen Legionella pneumophila, the etiologic agent of Legionnaire’s disease (LD), a severe form of nosocomial and community-acquired pneumonia. The ssrA gene coding for tmRNA, the key component of trans-translation, could not be deleted in L. pneumophila. To circumvent this and analyse the consequences of impaired trans-translation, we placed ssrA under the control of a chemical inducer. Phenotypes associated with the inhibition of ssrA expression include growth arrest in rich medium, hampered cell division, and hindered ability to infect eukaryotic cells (amoebae and human macrophages). LD is often associated with failure of antibiotic treatment and death (>10% of clinical cases). Decreasing tmRNA levels led to signi cantly higher sensitivity to ribosome-targeting antibiotics, including to erythromycin. We also detected a higher sensitivity to the transcription inhibitor rifampicin. Both antibiotics are recommended treatments for LD. Thus, interfering with trans- translation may not only halt the infection, but could also potentiate the recommended therapeutic treatments of LD.

Keywords : translation stalling ; Bacteria ;