To examine one possible mechanism of damage to leucocytes and tissue cells in legionellosis, seven species of were examined for cytolytic activity and for elaboration of phospholipase C. an enzyme that can damage mammalian cell membranes. Cytolysis was assessed using erythrocytes in agar. Phospholipase C was assayed by release of -nitrophenol from -nitrophenylphosphorylcholine and of tritiated phosphorylcholine from L-α-dipalmitoyl-[ H]phosphatidylcholine. and all lysed dog red blood cells, which have a high ratio of membrane phosphatidylcholine to sphingomyelin. The same strains hydrolysed varying amounts of -nitrophenylphosphorylcholine; exhibited the greatest activity. and , but not , released tritiated phosphorylcholine from labelled substrate. These results indicate that several species of possess cytolytic capability; exotoxins with phospholipase C activity may play a role.


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