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1.  Listeria monocytogenes: survival and adaptation in the gastrointestinal tract 
The foodborne pathogen Listeria monocytogenes has the capacity to survive and grow in a diverse range of natural environments. The transition from a food environment to the gastrointestinal tract begins a process of adaptation that may culminate in invasive systemic disease. Here we describe recent advances in our understanding of how L. monocytogenes adapts to the gastrointestinal environment prior to initiating systemic infection. We will discuss mechanisms used by the pathogen to survive encounters with acidic environments (which include the glutamate decarboxylase and arginine deiminase systems), and those which enable the organism to cope with bile acids (including bile salt hydrolase) and competition with the resident microbiota. An increased understanding of how the pathogen survives in this environment is likely to inform the future design of novel prophylactic approaches that exploit specific pharmabiotics; including probiotics, prebiotics, or phages.
doi:10.3389/fcimb.2014.00009
PMCID: PMC3913888  PMID: 24551601
Listeria; stress; acid; bile; gastrointestinal; virulence; pathogenesis; infection
2.  Signature tagged mutagenesis in the functional genetic analysis of gastrointestinal pathogens 
Gut Microbes  2012;3(2):93-103.
Signature tagged mutagenesis is a genetic approach that was developed to identify novel bacterial virulence factors. It is a negative selection method in which unique identification tags allow analysis of pools of mutants in mixed populations. The approach is particularly well suited to functional genetic analysis of the gastrointestinal phase of infection in foodborne pathogens and has the capacity to guide the development of novel vaccines and therapeutics. In this review we outline the technical principles underpinning signature-tagged mutagenesis as well as novel sequencing-based approaches for transposon mutant identification such as TraDIS (transposon directed insertion-site sequencing). We also provide an analysis of screens that have been performed in gastrointestinal pathogens which are a global health concern (Escherichia coli, Listeria monocytogenes, Helicobacter pylori, Vibrio cholerae and Salmonella enterica). The identification of key virulence loci through the use of signature tagged mutagenesis in mice and relevant larger animal models is discussed.
doi:10.4161/gmic.19578
PMCID: PMC3370953  PMID: 22555467
gastrointestinal; GI tract; gut; pathogen; pathogenesis; signature tagged mutagenesis; virulence
3.  A Mariner Transposon-Based Signature-Tagged Mutagenesis System for the Analysis of Oral Infection by Listeria monocytogenes 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e75437.
Listeria monocytogenes is a Gram-positive foodborne pathogen and the causative agent of listerosis a disease that manifests predominately as meningitis in the non-pregnant individual or infection of the fetus and spontaneous abortion in pregnant women. Common-source outbreaks of foodborne listeriosis are associated with significant morbidity and mortality. However, relatively little is known concerning the mechanisms that govern infection via the oral route. In order to aid functional genetic analysis of the gastrointestinal phase of infection we designed a novel signature-tagged mutagenesis (STM) system based upon the invasive L. monocytogenes 4b serotype H7858 strain. To overcome the limitations of gastrointestinal infection by L. monocytogenes in the mouse model we created a H7858 strain that is genetically optimised for oral infection in mice. Furthermore our STM system was based upon a mariner transposon to favour numerous and random transposition events throughout the L. monocytogenes genome. Use of the STM bank to investigate oral infection by L. monocytogenes identified 21 insertion mutants that demonstrated significantly reduced potential for infection in our model. The sites of transposon insertion included lmOh7858_0671 (encoding an internalin homologous to Lmo0610), lmOh7858_0898 (encoding a putative surface-expressed LPXTG protein homologous to Lmo0842), lmOh7858_2579 (encoding the HupDGC hemin transport system) and lmOh7858_0399 (encoding a putative fructose specific phosphotransferase system). We propose that this represents an optimised STM system for functional genetic analysis of foodborne/oral infection by L. monocytogenes.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0075437
PMCID: PMC3771922  PMID: 24069416
4.  Investigation of the Mechanisms by Which Listeria monocytogenes Grows in Porcine Gallbladder Bile▿ †  
Infection and Immunity  2010;79(1):369-379.
The food-borne pathogen Listeria monocytogenes is known to colonize the lumen of the gallbladder in infected mice and to grow rapidly in this environment (J. Hardy et al., Science 303:851-853, 2004). However, relatively little is known about the mechanisms utilized by the pathogen to survive and grow in this location. We utilized gallbladder bile (GB bile) isolated directly from porcine gallbladders as an ex vivo model of gallbladder growth. We demonstrate that GB bile is generally nontoxic for bacteria and can readily support growth of a variety of bacterial species including L. monocytogenes, Lactococcus lactis, Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium, and Escherichia coli. Significantly, L. monocytogenes grew at the same rate as the nonpathogenic species Listeria innocua, indicating that the pathogen does not possess specialized mechanisms that enable growth in this environment. However, when we reduced the pH of GB bile to pH 5.5 in order to mimic the release of bile within the small intestine, the toxicity of GB bile increased significantly and specific resistance mechanisms (Sigma B, BSH, and BilE) were essential for survival of the pathogen under these conditions. In order to identify genetic loci that are necessary for growth of L. monocytogenes in the gallbladder, a mariner transposon bank was created and screened for mutants unable to replicate in GB bile. This led to the identification of mutants in six loci, including genes encoding enzymes involved in purine metabolism, amino acid biosynthesis, and biotin uptake. Although GB bile does not represent a significant impediment to bacterial growth, specific metabolic processes are required by L. monocytogenes in order to grow in this environment.
doi:10.1128/IAI.00330-10
PMCID: PMC3019883  PMID: 20937762
5.  Human Neutrophil Clearance of Bacterial Pathogens Triggers Anti-Microbial γδ T Cell Responses in Early Infection 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(5):e1002040.
Human blood Vγ9/Vδ2 T cells, monocytes and neutrophils share a responsiveness toward inflammatory chemokines and are rapidly recruited to sites of infection. Studying their interaction in vitro and relating these findings to in vivo observations in patients may therefore provide crucial insight into inflammatory events. Our present data demonstrate that Vγ9/Vδ2 T cells provide potent survival signals resulting in neutrophil activation and the release of the neutrophil chemoattractant CXCL8 (IL-8). In turn, Vγ9/Vδ2 T cells readily respond to neutrophils harboring phagocytosed bacteria, as evidenced by expression of CD69, interferon (IFN)-γ and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α. This response is dependent on the ability of these bacteria to produce the microbial metabolite (E)-4-hydroxy-3-methyl-but-2-enyl pyrophosphate (HMB-PP), requires cell-cell contact of Vγ9/Vδ2 T cells with accessory monocytes through lymphocyte function-associated antigen-1 (LFA-1), and results in a TNF-α dependent proliferation of Vγ9/Vδ2 T cells. The antibiotic fosmidomycin, which targets the HMB-PP biosynthesis pathway, not only has a direct antibacterial effect on most HMB-PP producing bacteria but also possesses rapid anti-inflammatory properties by inhibiting γδ T cell responses in vitro. Patients with acute peritoneal-dialysis (PD)-associated bacterial peritonitis – characterized by an excessive influx of neutrophils and monocytes into the peritoneal cavity – show a selective activation of local Vγ9/Vδ2 T cells by HMB-PP producing but not by HMB-PP deficient bacterial pathogens. The γδ T cell-driven perpetuation of inflammatory responses during acute peritonitis is associated with elevated peritoneal levels of γδ T cells and TNF-α and detrimental clinical outcomes in infections caused by HMB-PP positive microorganisms. Taken together, our findings indicate a direct link between invading pathogens, neutrophils, monocytes and microbe-responsive γδ T cells in early infection and suggest novel diagnostic and therapeutic approaches.
Author Summary
The immune system of all jawed vertebrates harbors three distinct lymphocyte populations – αβ T cells, γδ T cells and B cells – yet only higher primates including humans possess so-called Vγ9/Vδ2 T cells, an enigmatic γδ T cell subset that uniformly responds to the majority of bacterial pathogens. For reasons that are not understood, this responsiveness is absent in all other animals although they too are constantly exposed to a plethora of potentially harmful micro-organisms. We here investigated how Vγ9/Vδ2 T cells respond to live microbes by mimicking physiological conditions in acute disease. Our experiments demonstrate that Vγ9/Vδ2 T cells recognize a small common molecule released when invading bacteria become ingested and killed by other white blood cells. The stimulation of Vγ9/Vδ2 T cells at the site of infection amplifies the inflammatory response and has important consequences for pathogen clearance and the development of microbe-specific immunity. However, if triggered at the wrong time or the wrong place, this rapid reaction toward bacteria may also lead to inflammation-related damage. These findings improve our insight into the complex cellular interactions in early infection, identify novel biomarkers of diagnostic and predictive value and highlight new avenues for therapeutic intervention.
doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1002040
PMCID: PMC3093373  PMID: 21589907
6.  Specific Osmolyte Transporters Mediate Bile Tolerance in Listeria monocytogenes▿  
Infection and Immunity  2009;77(11):4895-4904.
The food-borne pathogenic bacterium Listeria monocytogenes has the potential to adapt to an array of suboptimal growth environments encountered within the host. The pathogen is relatively bile tolerant and has the capacity to survive and grow within both the small intestine and the gallbladder in murine models of oral infection. We have previously demonstrated a role for the principal carnitine transport system of L. monocytogenes (OpuC) in gastrointestinal survival of the pathogen (R. Sleator, J. Wouters, C. G. M. Gahan, T. Abee, and C. Hill, Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 67:2692-2698, 2001). However, the mechanisms by which OpuC, or indeed carnitine, protects the pathogen in this environment are unclear. In the current study, systematic analysis of strains with mutations in osmolyte transporters revealed a role for OpuC in resisting the acute toxicity of bile, with a minor role also played by BetL, a secondary betaine uptake system which also exhibits a low affinity for carnitine. In addition, the toxic effects of bile on wild-type L. monocytogenes cells were ameliorated when carnitine (but not betaine) was added to the medium. lux-promoter fusions to the promoters of the genes encoding the principal osmolyte uptake systems Gbu, BetL, and OpuC and the known bile tolerance system BilE were constructed. Promoter activity for all systems was significantly induced in the presence of bile, with the opuC and bilE promoters exhibiting the highest levels of bile-dependent expression in vitro and the betL and bilE promoters showing the highest expression levels in the intestines of orally inoculated mice. A direct comparison of all osmolyte transporter mutants in a murine oral infection model confirmed a major role for OpuC in intestinal persistence and systemic invasion and a minor role for the BetL transporter in fecal carriage. This study therefore demonstrates a previously unrecognized function for osmolyte uptake systems in bile tolerance in L. monocytogenes.
doi:10.1128/IAI.00153-09
PMCID: PMC2772544  PMID: 19737907
7.  Analysis of the Isoprenoid Biosynthesis Pathways in Listeria monocytogenes Reveals a Role for the Alternative 2-C-Methyl-d-Erythritol 4-Phosphate Pathway in Murine Infection▿  
Infection and Immunity  2008;76(11):5392-5401.
Most bacteria synthesize isoprenoids through one of two essential pathways which provide the basic building block, isopentyl diphosphate (IPP): either the classical mevalonate pathway or the alternative non-mevalonate 2-C-methyl-d-erythritol 4-phosphate (MEP) pathway. However, postgenomic analyses of the Listeria monocytogenes genome revealed that this pathogen possesses the genetic capacity to produce the complete set of enzymes involved in both pathways. The nonpathogenic species Listeria innocua naturally lacks the last two genes (gcpE and lytB) of the MEP pathway, and bioinformatic analyses strongly suggest that the genes have been lost through evolution. In the present study we show that heterologous expression of gcpE and lytB in L. innocua can functionally restore the MEP pathway in this organism and confer on it the ability to induce Vγ9Vδ2 T cells. We have previously confirmed that both pathways are functional in L. monocytogenes and can provide sufficient IPP for normal growth in laboratory media (M. Begley, C. G. Gahan, A. K. Kollas, M. Hintz, C. Hill, H. Jomaa, and M. Eberl, FEBS Lett. 561:99-104, 2004). Here we describe a targeted mutagenesis strategy to create a double pathway mutant in L. monocytogenes which cannot grow in the absence of exogenously provided mevalonate, confirming the requirement for at least one intact pathway for growth. In addition, murine studies revealed that mutants lacking the MEP pathway were impaired in virulence relative to the parent strain during intraperitoneal infection, while mutants lacking the classical mevalonate pathway were not impaired in virulence potential. In vivo bioluminescence imaging also confirmed in vivo expression of the gcpE gene (MEP pathway) during murine infection.
doi:10.1128/IAI.01376-07
PMCID: PMC2573353  PMID: 18765739
8.  Tools for Functional Postgenomic Analysis of Listeria monocytogenes▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2008;74(13):3921-3934.
We describe the development of genetic tools for regulated gene expression, the introduction of chromosomal mutations, and improved plasmid transfer by electroporation in the food-borne pathogen Listeria monocytogenes. pIMK, a kanamycin-resistant, site-specific, integrative listeriophage vector was constructed and then modified for overexpression (pIMK2) or for isopropyl-β-d-thiogalactopyranoside (IPTG)-regulated expression (pIMK3 and pIMK4). The dynamic range of promoters was assessed by determining luciferase activity, P60 secretion, and internalin A-mediated invasion. These analyses demonstrated that pIMK4 and pIMK3 have a stringently controlled dynamic range of 540-fold. Stable gene overexpression was achieved with pIMK2, giving a range of expression for the three vectors of 1,350-fold. The lactococcal pORI280 system was optimized for the generation of chromosomal mutations and used to create five new prfA star mutants. The combination of pIMK4 and pORI280 allowed streamlined creation of “IPTG-dependent” mutants. This was exemplified by creation of a clean deletion mutant with deletion of the universally essential secA gene, and this mutant exhibited a rapid loss of viability upon withdrawal of IPTG. We also improved plasmid transfer by electroporation into three commonly used laboratory strains of L. monocytogenes. A 125-fold increase in transformation efficiency for EGDe compared with the widely used protocol of Park and Stewart (S. F. Park and G. S. Stewart, Gene 94:129-132, 1990) was observed. Maximal transformation efficiencies of 5.7 × 106 and 6.7 × 106 CFU per μg were achieved for EGDe and 10403S, respectively, with a replicating plasmid. An efficiency of 2 × 107 CFU per μg is the highest efficiency reported thus far for L. monocytogenes F2365.
doi:10.1128/AEM.00314-08
PMCID: PMC2446514  PMID: 18441118
9.  Pseudomonas aeruginosa RsmA Plays an Important Role during Murine Infection by Influencing Colonization, Virulence, Persistence, and Pulmonary Inflammation▿  
Infection and Immunity  2007;76(2):632-638.
The ability of Pseudomonas aeruginosa to cause a broad range of infections in humans is due, at least in part, to its adaptability and its capacity to regulate the expression of key virulence genes in response to specific environmental conditions. Multiple two-component response regulators have been shown to facilitate rapid responses to these environmental conditions, including the coordinated expression of specific virulence determinants. RsmA is a posttranscriptional regulatory protein which controls the expression of a number of virulence-related genes with relevance for acute and chronic infections. Many membrane-bound sensors, including RetS, LadS, and GacS, are responsible for the reciprocal regulation of genes associated with acute infection and chronic persistence. In P. aeruginosa this is due to sensors influencing the expression of the regulatory RNA RsmZ, with subsequent effects on the level of free RsmA. While interactions between an rsmA mutant and human airway epithelial cells have been examined in vitro, the role of RsmA during infection in vivo has not been determined yet. Here the function of RsmA in both acute and chronic models of infection was examined. The results demonstrate that RsmA is involved in initial colonization and dissemination in a mouse model of acute pneumonia. Furthermore, while loss of RsmA results in reduced colonization during the initial stages of acute infection, the data show that mutation of rsmA ultimately favors chronic persistence and results in increased inflammation in the lungs of infected mice.
doi:10.1128/IAI.01132-07
PMCID: PMC2223469  PMID: 18025099
10.  Construction of p16Slux, a Novel Vector for Improved Bioluminescent Labeling of Gram-Negative Bacteria▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2007;73(21):7092-7095.
A novel vector has been constructed for the constitutive luminescent tagging of gram-negative bacteria by site-specific integration into the 16S locus of the bacterial chromosome. A number of gram-negative pathogens were successfully tagged using this vector, and the system was validated during murine infections of living animals.
doi:10.1128/AEM.01394-07
PMCID: PMC2074938  PMID: 17766445
11.  Improved Luciferase Tagging System for Listeria monocytogenes Allows Real-Time Monitoring In Vivo and In Vitro▿  
An improved system for luciferase tagging Listeria monocytogenes was developed by constructing a highly active, constitutive promoter. This construct gave 100-fold-higher activity in broth than any native promoter tested and allowed for imaging of lux-tagged L. monocytogenes in food products, during murine infections, and in tumor targeting studies.
doi:10.1128/AEM.02940-06
PMCID: PMC1892880  PMID: 17351089
12.  Novel Luciferase Reporter System for In Vitro and Organ-Specific Monitoring of Differential Gene Expression in Listeria monocytogenes 
In this paper we describe construction of a luciferase-based vector, pPL2lux, and use of this vector to study gene expression in Listeria monocytogenes. pPL2lux is a derivative of the listerial integration vector pPL2 and harbors a synthetic luxABCDE operon encoding a fatty acid reductase complex (LuxCDE) involved in synthesis of the fatty aldehyde substrate for the bioluminescence reaction catalyzed by the LuxAB luciferase. We constructed pPL2lux derivatives in which the secA and hlyA promoters were translationally fused to luxABCDE and integrated as a single copy into the chromosome of L. monocytogenes EGD-e. Growth experiments revealed that hlyA was expressed predominantly in the stationary phase in LB medium buffered at pH 7.4, whereas secA expression could be detected in the exponential growth phase. Moreover, the correlation between luciferase activity and transcription levels, as determined by reverse transcriptase PCR, was confirmed using conditions known to lead to repression and activation of hemolysin expression (addition of cellobiose and activated charcoal, respectively). Furthermore, hemolysin expression could be monitored in real time during invasion of an intact monolayer of C2Bbe1 (Caco-2-derived) cells. Finally, hemolysin expression could be detected in the livers, spleens, and kidneys of mice 3 days postinfection. These experiments clearly established the effectiveness of pPL2lux as a quantitative reporter system for real-time, noninvasive evaluation of gene expression in L. monocytogenes.
doi:10.1128/AEM.72.4.2876-2884.2006
PMCID: PMC1449049  PMID: 16597994
13.  Bile Salt Hydrolase Activity in Probiotics 
doi:10.1128/AEM.72.3.1729-1738.2006
PMCID: PMC1393245  PMID: 16517616
14.  Listeria monocytogenes PerR Mutants Display a Small-Colony Phenotype, Increased Sensitivity to Hydrogen Peroxide, and Significantly Reduced Murine Virulence 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2005;71(12):8314-8322.
Deletion of perR in Listeria monocytogenes results in a small-colony phenotype (ΔperRsm) that is slow growing and exhibits increased sensitivity to H2O2. At a relatively high frequency, large-colony variants (ΔperRlg) arise, which are more resistant to H2O2 than the wild-type and ultimately dominate the culture. Transcriptional analysis revealed that the kat gene (catalase) is up-regulated in both types of mutants and that the highest level is apparent in ΔperRsm mutants, demonstrating PerR regulation of this gene. Overexpression of the catalase gene in the wild-type background resulted in a slower-growing strain with a smaller colony size similar to that of ΔperRsm. By combining a bioinformatic approach with experimental evidence, other PerR-regulated genes were identified, including fur, lmo0641, fri, lmo1604, hemA, and trxB. The transcriptional profile of these genes in both mutant backgrounds was similar to that of catalase in that a higher level of expression was observed in ΔperRsm than in the wild type or ΔperRlg. Murine studies revealed that the virulence potential of the ΔperRsm mutant is substantially reduced compared to that of the wild-type and ΔperRlg strains. Collectively, the data demonstrate that the ΔperRsm mutant represents the true phenotype associated with the absence of PerR, which is linked to overexpression of regulated genes that negatively affect bacterial homeostasis both in vitro and in vivo. A subsequent secondary mutation occurred at a high frequency, which resulted in phenotypic reversion to a large-colony phenotype with increased fitness that may have obstructed the analysis of the role of PerR in the physiology of the bacterial cell.
doi:10.1128/AEM.71.12.8314-8322.2005
PMCID: PMC1317367  PMID: 16332818
15.  Role for HtrA in Stress Induction and Virulence Potential in Listeria monocytogenes 
In silico analysis of the Listeria monocytogenes genome revealed lmo0292, a gene predicted to encode a HtrA-like serine protease. A stable insertion mutant was constructed, revealing a requirement for htrA in the listerial response to heat, acid, and penicillin stress. Transcriptional analysis revealed that htrA is not induced in response to heat shock but is induced in response to low pH and penicillin G stress. Furthermore, htrA expression was shown to be dependent upon the LisRK two-component sensor-kinase, a system known to respond to changes in integrity of the cell envelope. In addition, we demonstrated that a second in-frame start codon, upstream of that previously annotated for L. monocytogenes htrA, incorporating a putative signal sequence appears to influence virulence potential. Finally, a significant virulence defect was observed for the htrA mutant, indicating that this gene is required for full virulence in mice. Our findings suggest that L. monocytogenes lmo0292 encodes an HtrA-like serine protease that is not part of the classical heat shock response but is involved in stress responses and virulence.
doi:10.1128/AEM.71.8.4241-4247.2005
PMCID: PMC1183364  PMID: 16085809
16.  Presence of GadD1 Glutamate Decarboxylase in Selected Listeria monocytogenes Strains Is Associated with an Ability To Grow at Low pH 
The glutamate decarboxylase (GAD) system is critical to the survival of Listeria monocytogenes LO28 at low-pH stress (
doi:10.1128/AEM.71.6.2832-2839.2005
PMCID: PMC1151821  PMID: 15932974
Infection and Immunity  2005;73(2):894-904.
Listeria monocytogenes must resist the deleterious actions of bile in order to infect and subsequently colonize the human gastrointestinal tract. The molecular mechanisms used by the bacterium to resist bile and the influence of bile on pathogenesis are as yet largely unexplored. This study describes the analysis of three genes—bsh, pva, and btlB—previously annotated as bile-associated loci in the sequenced L. monocytogenes EGDe genome (lmo2067, lmo0446, and lmo0754, respectively). Analysis of deletion mutants revealed a role for all three genes in resisting the acute toxicity of bile and bile salts, particularly glycoconjugated bile salts at low pH. Mutants were unaffected in the other stress responses examined (acid, salt, and detergents). Bile hydrolysis assays demonstrate that L. monocytogenes possesses only one bile salt hydrolase gene, namely, bsh. Transcriptional analyses and activity assays revealed that, although it is regulated by both PrfA and σB, the latter appears to play the greater role in modulating bsh expression. In addition to being incapable of bile hydrolysis, a sigB mutant was shown to be exquisitely sensitive to bile salts. Furthermore, increased expression of sigB was detected under anaerobic conditions and during murine infection. A gene previously annotated as a possible penicillin V amidase (pva) or bile salt hydrolase was shown to be required for resistance to penicillin V but not penicillin G but did not demonstrate a role in bile hydrolysis. Finally, animal (murine) studies revealed an important role for both bsh and btlB in the intestinal persistence of L. monocytogenes.
doi:10.1128/IAI.73.2.894-904.2005
PMCID: PMC546953  PMID: 15664931
Infection and Immunity  2004;72(2):717-727.
The ability to adapt to adverse environmental conditions encountered in food and during host infection is a sine qua non for a successful Listeria monocytogenes infection. This ability is likely to depend on complex regulatory pathways controlled by a number of key regulators. We utilized the pORI19 plasmid integration system to analyze the role of six putative regulatory loci in growth under suboptimal environmental conditions and during murine infection. Disruption of loci encoding a topoisomerase III (lmo2756), a putative methyltransferase (lmo0581), and a regulator of the MarR family (lmo1618) revealed roles for the methyltransferase and the MarR regulator in growth under environmental stress conditions. However, plasmid integration into these loci had no impact on virulence potential in the murine model of infection. Disruption of the alternative sigma factor Sigma-H resulted in a mutant that demonstrated reduced growth potential in minimal medium. Murine studies indicated a minor role for this sigma factor in the infectious process. Strikingly, disruption of both perR and fur loci resulted in mutants that are significantly affected in virulence for mice, with the fur mutant demonstrating the greatest reduction in virulence potential. Both perR and fur mutants demonstrated increased resistance to hydrogen peroxide and the fur mutant was sensitive to low-iron conditions. The virulence defect of both fur and perR mutants could be rescued by iron-overload after esculetin treatment of mice, suggesting that the in vivo role of these gene products is to procure iron for bacterial growth.
doi:10.1128/IAI.72.2.717-727.2004
PMCID: PMC321596  PMID: 14742513
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2002;68(12):6005-6012.
Bile is one of many barriers that Listeria monocytogenes must overcome in the human gastrointestinal tract in order to infect and cause disease. We demonstrated that stationary-phase cultures of L. monocytogenes LO28 were able to tolerate concentrations of bovine, porcine, and human bile and bile acids well in excess of those encountered in vivo. Strain LO28 was relatively bile resistant compared with other clinical isolates of L. monocytogenes, as well as with Listeria innocua, Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium LT2, and Lactobacillus sakei. While exponential-phase L. monocytogenes LO28 cells were exquisitely sensitive to unconjugated bile acids, prior adaptation to sublethal levels of bile acids or heterologous stresses, such as acid, heat, salt, or sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS), significantly enhanced bile resistance. This adaptive response was independent of protein synthesis, and in the cases of bile and SDS adaptation, occurred in seconds. In order to identify genetic loci involved in the bile tolerance phenotype of L. monocytogenes LO28, transposon (Tn917) and plasmid (pORI19) integration banks were screened for bile-sensitive mutants. The disrupted genes included a homologue of the capA locus required for capsule formation in Bacillus anthracis; a gene encoding the transcriptional regulator ZurR; a homologue of an Escherichia coli gene, lytB, involved in isoprenoid biosynthesis; a gene encoding a homologue of the Bacillus subtilis membrane protein YxiO; and a gene encoding an amino acid transporter with a putative role in pH homeostasis, gadE. Interestingly, all of the identified loci play putative roles in maintenance of the cell envelope or in stress responses.
doi:10.1128/AEM.68.12.6005-6012.2002
PMCID: PMC134417  PMID: 12450822
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2002;68(10):4710-4716.
The success of Listeria monocytogenes as a food-borne pathogen owes much to its ability to survive a variety of stresses, both in the food environment and, after ingestion, within the animal host. Growth at high salt concentrations is attributed mainly to the accumulation of organic solutes such as glycine betaine and carnitine. We characterized L. monocytogenes LO28 strains with single, double, and triple deletions in the osmolyte transport systems BetL, Gbu, and OpuC. When single deletion mutants were tested, Gbu was found to have the most drastic effect on the rate of growth in brain heart infusion (BHI) broth with 6% added NaCl. The highest reduction in growth rate was found for the triple mutant LO28BCG (ΔbetL ΔopuC Δgbu), although the mutant was still capable of growth under these adverse conditions. In addition, we analyzed the growth and survival of this triple mutant in an animal (murine) model. LO28BCG showed a significant reduction in its ability to cause systemic infection following peroral coinoculation with the wild-type parent. Altering OpuC alone resulted in similar effects (R. D. Sleator, J. Wouters, C. G. M. Gahan, T. Abee, and C. Hill, Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 67:2692-2698, 2001), leading to the assumption that OpuC may play an important role in listerial pathogenesis. Analysis of the accumulation of osmolytes revealed that betaine is accumulated up to 300 μmol/g (dry weight) when grown in BHI broth plus 6% NaCl whereas no carnitine accumulation could be detected. Radiolabeled-betaine uptake studies revealed an inability of BGSOE (ΔbetL Δgbu) and LO28BCG to transport betaine. Indeed, for LO28BCG, no accumulated betaine was found, but carnitine was accumulated in this strain up to 600 μmol/g (dry weight) of cells, indicating the presence of a possible fourth osmolyte transporter.
doi:10.1128/AEM.68.10.4710-4716.2002
PMCID: PMC126390  PMID: 12324311
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2001;67(10):4560-4565.
The observed sensitivity of Listeria monocytogenes to the toxic proline analogue l-azetidine-2-carboxylic acid (AZ) suggested that proline synthesis in Listeria may be regulated by feedback inhibition of γ-glutamyl kinase (GK), the first enzyme of the proline biosynthesis pathway, encoded by the proB gene. Taking advantage of the Epicurian coli mutator strain XL1-Red, we performed random mutagenesis of the recently described proBA operon and generated three independent mutations in the listerial proB homologue, leading to proline overproduction and salt tolerance when expressed in an E. coli (ΔproBA) background. While each of the mutations (located within a conserved 26-amino-acid region of GK) was shown to confer AZ resistance (AZr) on an L. monocytogenes proBA mutant, listerial transformants failed to exhibit the salt-tolerant phenotype observed in E. coli. Since proline accumulation has previously been linked to the virulence potential of a number of pathogenic bacteria, we analyzed the effect of proline overproduction on Listeria pathogenesis. However, our results suggest that as previously described for proline auxotrophy, proline hyperproduction has no apparent impact on the virulence potential of Listeria.
doi:10.1128/AEM.67.10.4560-4565.2001
PMCID: PMC93203  PMID: 11571156
Intracellular accumulation of the amino acid proline has previously been linked to the salt tolerance and virulence potential of a number of bacteria. Taking advantage of the proBA mutant Escherichia coli CSH26, we identified a listerial proBA operon coding for enzymes functionally similar to the glutamyl kinase (GK) and glutamylphosphate reductase (GPR) enzyme complex which catalyzes the first and second steps of proline biosynthesis in E. coli. The first gene of the operon, proB, is predicted to encode GK, a 276-residue protein with a calculated molecular mass of 30.03 kDa and pl of 5.2. Distal to the promoter and overlapping the 3′ end of proB by 17 bp is proA, which encodes GPR, a 415-residue protein with a calculated molecular mass of 45.50 kDa (pl 5.3). Using this information, we created a chromosomal deletion mutant by allelic exchange which is auxotrophic for proline. This mutant was used to assess the contribution of proline anabolism to osmotolerance and virulence. While inactivation of proBA had no significant effect on virulence in mouse assays (either perorally or intraperitoneally), growth at low (2 to 4% NaCl) and high (>6% NaCl) salt concentrations in complex media was significantly reduced in the absence of efficient proline synthesis. We conclude that while proline biosynthesis plays little, if any, role in the intracellular life cycle and infectious nature of Listeria monocytogenes, it can play an important role in survival in osmolyte-depleted environments of elevated osmolarity.
doi:10.1128/AEM.67.6.2571-2577.2001
PMCID: PMC92909  PMID: 11375165
The success of Listeria monocytogenes as a food-borne pathogen owes much to its ability to survive a variety of stresses, both in the external environment prior to ingestion and subsequently within the animal host. Growth at high salt concentrations and low temperatures is attributed mainly to the accumulation of organic solutes such as glycine betaine and carnitine. We utilized a novel system for generating chromosomal mutations (based on a lactococcal pWVO1-derived Ori+ RepA− vector, pORI19) to identify a listerial OpuC homologue. Mutating the operon in two strains of L. monocytogenes revealed significant strain variation in the observed activity of OpuC. Radiolabeled osmolyte uptake studies, together with growth experiments in defined media, linked OpuC to carnitine and glycine betaine uptake in Listeria. We also investigated the role of OpuC in contributing to the growth and survival of Listeria in an animal (murine) model of infection. Altering OpuC resulted in a significant reduction in the ability of Listeria to colonize the upper small intestine and cause subsequent systemic infection following peroral inoculation.
doi:10.1128/AEM.67.6.2692-2698.2001
PMCID: PMC92926  PMID: 11375182
Infection and Immunity  2001;69(6):3924-3932.
The ability of intracellular pathogens to sense and adapt to the hostile environment of the host is an important factor governing virulence. We have sequenced the operon encoding the major heat shock proteins GroES and GroEL in the gram-positive food-borne pathogen Listeria monocytogenes. The operon has a conserved orientation in the order groES groEL. Upstream of groES and in the opposite orientation is a gene encoding a homologue of the Bacillus subtilis protein YdiL, while downstream of groEL is a gene encoding a putative bile hydrolase. We used both reverse transcriptase-PCR (RT-PCR) and transcriptional fusions to the UV-optimized Aequorea victoria green fluorescent protein (GFPUV) to analyze expression of groESL under various environmental stress conditions, including heat shock, ethanol stress, and acid shock, and during infection of J774 mouse macrophage cells. Strains harboring GFPUV transcriptional fusions to the promoter region of groESL demonstrated a significant increase in fluorescence following heat shock that was detected by both fluorimetry and fluorescence microscopy. Using both RT-PCR and GFP technology we detected expression of groESL following internalization by J774 cells. Increased intracellular expression of dnaK was also determined using RT-PCR. We have recently described a system which utilizes L. monocytogenes hemolysin as an in vivo reporter of gene expression within the host cell phagosome (C. G. M. Gahan and C. Hill, Mol. Microbiol. 36:498–507, 2000). In this study a strain was constructed in which hemolysin expression was placed under the control of the groESL promoter. In this strain hemolysin expression during infection also confirms transcription from the groESL promoter during J774 and murine infection, albeit at lower levels than the known virulence factor plcA.
doi:10.1128/IAI.69.6.3924-3932.2001
PMCID: PMC98425  PMID: 11349060

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