Vacuolar pathogens reside in membrane-bound compartments within host cells. Maintaining the integrity of this compartment is paramount to bacterial survival and replication as it protects against certain host surveillance mechanisms that function to eradicate invading pathogens. Preserving this compartment during bacterial replication requires expansion of the vacuole membrane to accommodate the increasing number of bacteria, and yet, how this is accomplished remains largely unknown. Here, we show that the vacuolar pathogen Legionella pneumophila exploits multiple sources of host cell fatty acids, including inducing host cell fatty acid scavenging pathways, in order to promote expansion of the replication vacuole and bacteria growth. Conversely, when exogenous lipids are limited, the decrease in host lipid availability restricts expansion of the replication vacuole membrane, resulting in a higher density of bacteria within the vacuole. Modifying the architecture of the vacuole prioritizes bacterial growth by allowing the greatest number of bacteria to remain protected by the vacuole membrane despite limited resources for its expansion. However, this trade-off is not without risk, as it can lead to vacuole destabilization, which is detrimental to the pathogen. However, when host lipid resources become extremely scarce, for example by inhibiting host lipid scavenging, de novo biosynthetic pathways, and/or diverting host fatty acids to storage compartments, bacterial replication becomes severely impaired, indicating that host cell fatty acid availability also directly regulates L. pneumophila growth. Collectively, these data demonstrate dual roles for host cell fatty acids in replication vacuole expansion and bacterial proliferation, revealing the central functions for these molecules and their metabolic pathways in L. pneumophila pathogenesis.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1011996
JournalPLoS pathogens
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2024


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