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.
Listeria; stress; acid; bile; gastrointestinal; virulence; pathogenesis; infection
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.
gastrointestinal; GI tract; gut; pathogen; pathogenesis; signature tagged mutagenesis; virulence
The glutamate decarboxylase (GAD) system has been shown to be important for the survival of Listeria monocytogenes in low pH environments. The bacterium can use this faculty to maintain pH homeostasis under acidic conditions. The accepted model for the GAD system proposes that the antiport of glutamate into the bacterial cell in exchange for γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is coupled to an intracellular decarboxylation reaction of glutamate into GABA that consumes protons and therefore facilitates pH homeostasis. Most strains of L. monocytogenes possess three decarboxylase genes (gadD1, D2 & D3) and two antiporter genes (gadT1 & gadT2). Here, we confirm that the gadD3 encodes a glutamate decarboxylase dedicated to the intracellular GAD system (GADi), which produces GABA from cytoplasmic glutamate in the absence of antiport activity. We also compare the functionality of the GAD system between two commonly studied reference strains, EGD-e and 10403S with differences in terms of acid resistance. Through functional genomics we show that EGD-e is unable to export GABA and relies exclusively in the GADi system, which is driven primarily by GadD3 in this strain. In contrast 10403S relies upon GadD2 to maintain both an intracellular and extracellular GAD system (GADi/GADe). Through experiments with a murinised variant of EGD-e (EGDm) in mice, we found that the GAD system plays a significant role in the overall virulence of this strain. Double mutants lacking either gadD1D3 or gadD2D3 of the GAD system displayed reduced acid tolerance and were significantly affected in their ability to cause infection following oral inoculation. Since EGDm exploits GADi but not GADe the results indicate that the GADi system makes a contribution to virulence within the mouse. Furthermore, we also provide evidence that there might be a separate line of evolution in the GAD system between two commonly used reference strains.
The human intestine is an important location for horizontal gene transfer (HGT) due to the presence of a densely populated community of microorganisms which are essential to the health of the human superorganism. HGT in this niche has the potential to influence the evolution of members of this microbial community and to mediate the spread of antibiotic resistance genes from commensal organisms to potential pathogens. Recent culture-independent techniques and metagenomic studies have provided an insight into the distribution of mobile genetic elements (MGEs) and the extent of HGT in the human gastrointestinal tract. In this mini-review, we explore the current knowledge of mobile genetic elements in the gastrointestinal tract, the progress of research into the distribution of antibiotic resistance genes in the gut and the potential role of MGEs in the spread of antibiotic resistance. In the face of reduced treatment options for many clinical infections, understanding environmental and commensal antibiotic resistance and spread is critical to the future development of meaningful and long lasting anti-microbial therapies.
antibiotics resistance; mobile genetic elements; gut; gene transfer; microbiome
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.
The bacterial surface protein internalin (InlA) is a major virulence factor of the food-born pathogen Listeria monocytogenes. It plays a critical role in the bacteria crossing the host intestinal barrier by a species-specific interaction with the cell adhesion molecule E-cadherin. In mice, the interaction of InlA with murine E-cadherin is impaired due to sequence-specific binding incompatibilities. We have previously used the approach of ‘murinisation’ to establish an oral listeriosis infection model in mice by exchanging two amino acid residues in InlA. This dramatically increases binding to mouse E-cadherin. In the present study, we have used bioluminescent murinised and non-murinised Listeria strains to examine the spatiotemporal dissemination of Listeria in four diverse mouse genetic backgrounds after oral inoculation.
The murinised Listeria monocytogenes strain showed enhanced invasiveness and induced more severe infections in all four investigated mouse inbred strains compared to the non-murinised Listeria strain. We identified C57BL/6J mice as being most resistant to orally acquired listeriosis whereas C3HeB/FeJ, A/J and BALB/cJ mice were found to be most susceptible to infection. This was reflected in faster kinetics of Listeria dissemination, higher bacterial loads in internal organs, and elevated serum levels of IL-6, IFN-γ, TNF-α and CCL2 in the susceptible strains as compared to the resistant C57BL/6J strain. Importantly, murinisation of InlA did not cause enhanced invasion of Listeria monocytogenes into the brain.
Murinised Listeria are able to efficiently cross the intestinal barrier in mice from diverse genetic backgrounds. However, expression of murinized InlA does not enhance listerial brain invasion suggesting that crossing of the blood brain barrier and crossing of the intestinal epithelium are achieved by Listeria monocytogenes through different molecular mechanisms.
Regulation of iron homeostasis in many pathogens is principally mediated by the ferric uptake regulator, Fur. Since acquisition of iron from the host is essential for the intracellular pathogen Listeria monocytogenes, we predicted the existence of Fur-regulated systems that support infection. We examined the contribution of nine Fur-regulated loci to the pathogenicity of L. monocytogenes in a murine model of infection. While mutating the majority of the genes failed to affect virulence, three mutants exhibited a significantly compromised virulence potential. Most striking was the role of the membrane protein we designate FrvA (Fur regulated virulence factor A; encoded by frvA [lmo0641]), which is absolutely required for the systemic phase of infection in mice and also for virulence in an alternative infection model, the Wax Moth Galleria mellonella. Further analysis of the ΔfrvA mutant revealed poor growth in iron deficient media and inhibition of growth by micromolar concentrations of haem or haemoglobin, a phenotype which may contribute to the attenuated growth of this mutant during infection. Uptake studies indicated that the ΔfrvA mutant is unaffected in the uptake of ferric citrate but demonstrates a significant increase in uptake of haem and haemin. The data suggest a potential role for FrvA as a haem exporter that functions, at least in part, to protect the cell against the potential toxicity of free haem.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The glutamate decarboxylase (GAD) system is critical to the survival of Listeria monocytogenes LO28 at low-pH stress (
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.
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.
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.
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.
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