Spontaneous Loss of Virulence in Natural Populations of Listeria monocytogenes.
ABSTRACT: The pathogenesis of Listeria monocytogenes depends on the ability of this bacterium to escape from the phagosome of the host cells via the action of the pore-forming toxin listeriolysin O (LLO). Expression of the LLO-encoding gene (hly) requires the transcriptional activator PrfA, and both hly and prfA genes are essential for L. monocytogenes virulence. Here, we used the hemolytic activity of LLO as a phenotypic marker to screen for spontaneous virulence-attenuating mutations in L. monocytogenes Sixty nonhemolytic isolates were identified among a collection of 57,820 confirmed L. monocytogenes strains isolated from a variety of sources (0.1%). In most cases (56/60; 93.3%), the nonhemolytic phenotype resulted from nonsense, missense, or frameshift mutations in prfA Five strains carried hly mutations leading to a single amino acid substitution (G299V) or a premature stop codon causing strong virulence attenuation in mice. In one strain, both hly and gshF (encoding a glutathione synthase required for full PrfA activity) were missing due to genomic rearrangements likely caused by a transposable element. The PrfA/LLO loss-of-function (PrfA-/LLO-) mutants belonged to phylogenetically diverse clades of L. monocytogenes, and most were identified among nonclinical strains (57/60). Consistent with the rare occurrence of loss-of-virulence mutations, we show that prfA and hly are under purifying selection. Although occurring at a low frequency, PrfA-/LLO- mutational events in L. monocytogenes lead to niche restriction and open an evolutionary path for obligate saprophytism in this facultative intracellular pathogen.
Project description:Listeria monocytogenes is a facultative intracellular bacterial pathogen that causes serious disease in immunocompromised individuals, pregnant women, and neonates. Bacterial virulence is mediated by the expression of specific gene products that facilitate entry into host cells and enable bacterial replication; the majority of these gene products are regulated by a transcriptional activator known as PrfA. L. monocytogenes strains containing prfA E77K or prfA G155S mutations exhibit increased expression of virulence genes in broth culture and are hypervirulent in mice. To define the scope of the influences of the prfA E77K and prfA G155S mutations on L. monocytogenes pathogenesis, multiple aspects of bacterial invasion and intracellular growth were examined. Enhanced bacterial invasion of host epithelial cells was dependent on the expression of a number of surface proteins previously associated with invasion, including InlA, InlB, and ActA. In addition to these surface proteins, increased production of the hly-encoded secreted hemolysin listeriolysin O (LLO) was also found to significantly enhance bacterial invasion into epithelial cell lines for both prfA mutant strains. Although prfA E77K and prfA G155S strains were similar in their invasive phenotypes, the infection of epithelial cells with prfA E77K strains resulted in host cell plasma membrane damage, whereas prfA G155S strains did not alter plasma membrane integrity. Bacterial infection of human epithelial cells, in which the production of LLO is not required for bacterial entry into the cytosol, indicated that prfA E77K cytotoxic effects were mediated via LLO. Both prfA E77K and prfA G155S strains were more efficient than wild-type bacteria in gaining access to the host cell cytosol and in initiating the polymerization of host cell actin, and both were capable of mediating LLO-independent lysis of host cell vacuoles in cell lines for which L. monocytogenes vacuole disruption normally requires LLO activity. These experiments illuminate the diverse facets of L. monocytogenes pathogenesis that are significantly enhanced by the constitutive activation of PrfA via prfA mutations and underscore the critical role of this protein in promoting L. monocytogenes virulence.
Project description:Most human listeriosis outbreaks are caused by Listeria monocytogenes evolutionary lineage I strains which possess four exotoxins: a phosphatidylinositol-specific phospholipase C (PlcA), a broad-range phospholipase C (PlcB), listeriolysin O (LLO) and listeriolysin S (LLS). The simultaneous contribution of these molecules to virulence has never been explored. Here, the importance of these four exotoxins of an epidemic lineage I L. monocytogenes strain (F2365) in virulence was assessed in chicken embryos infected in the allantoic cavity. We show that LLS does not play a role in virulence while LLO is required to infect and kill chicken embryos both in wild type transcriptional regulator of virulence PrfA (PrfAWT) and constitutively active PrfA (PrfA*) backgrounds. We demonstrate that PlcA, a toxin previously considered as a minor virulence factor, played a major role in virulence in a PrfA* background. Interestingly, GFP transcriptional fusions show that the plcA promoter is less active than the hly promoter in vitro, explaining why the contribution of PlcA to virulence could be observed more importantly in a PrfA* background. Together, our results suggest that PlcA might play a more important role in the infectious lifecycle of L. monocytogenes than previously thought, explaining why all the strains of L. monocytogenes have conserved an intact copy of plcA in their genomes.
Project description:Listeria monocytogenes is a foodborne pathogen capable of secreting listeriolysin O (LLO), a pore-forming toxin encoded by the hly gene. While the functions of LLO have been studied extensively, how the production of LLO is modulated by the intestinal environment, devoid of oxygen and enriched in short chain fatty acids (SCFAs), is not completely understood. Using L. monocytogenes strain 10403s, we found that hly transcription was moderately decreased by aerobic SCFA exposures but significantly increased by anaerobic SCFA exposures. Moreover, aerobic, but not anaerobic, exposure to low levels of SCFAs resulted in a significantly higher LLO activity. These results demonstrated that transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulations of LLO production were separately modulated by SCFAs and were responsive to oxygen levels. Examining isogenic mutants revealed that PrfA and SigB play a role in regulating LLO production in response to SCFAs. Effects of SCFAs were also present in the cardiotropic strain 07PF0776 but distinctly different from those in strain 10403s. For both strains, prior exposures to SCFAs altered intracellular infections in Caco-2 and RAW264.7 cells and the plaque sizes in L fibroblasts, a result confirming the ability of L. monocytogenes to adapt to SCFAs in ways that impact its subsequent infection outcomes.
Project description:Listeriolysin O (LLO) is a pore-forming cytolysin that allows Listeria monocytogenes to escape from phagocytic vacuoles and enter the host cell cytosol. LLO is expressed continuously during infection, but it has been a challenge to evaluate the importance of LLO secreted in the host cell cytosol because deletion of the gene encoding LLO (hly) prevents localization of L. monocytogenes to the cytosol. Here, we describe a L. monocytogenes strain (hlyfl) in which hly is flanked by loxP sites and Cre recombinase is under the transcriptional control of the L. monocytogenes actA promoter, which is highly induced in the host cell cytosol. In less than 2 h after infection of bone marrow-derived macrophages (BMMs), bacteria were 100% non-hemolytic. hlyfl grew intracellularly to levels 10-fold greater than wildtype L. monocytogenes and was less cytotoxic. In an intravenous mouse model, 90% of bacteria were non-hemolytic within three hours in the spleen and eight hours in the liver. The loss of LLO led to a 2-log virulence defect in the spleen and a 4-log virulence defect in the liver compared to WT L. monocytogenes. Thus, the production of LLO in the cytosol has significant impact on the pathogenicity of L. monocytogenes.
Project description:Listeria monocytogenes has been extensively studied as a model facultative intracellular pathogen. While the roles of major virulence factors in host-pathogen interactions have been extensively characterized, recent work suggests that some of these factors can also contribute to environmental proliferation of this pathogen. In this study, we characterized two non-hemolytic transposon mutants of strain 2011L-2858 (serotype 1/2b), implicated in the 2011 listeriosis outbreak via whole cantaloupe, for their capacity to form biofilms on polystyrene, aggregate, and colonize cantaloupe rind. One mutant harbored a single mariner-based transposon insertion in hly, encoding the hemolysin Listeriolysin O, while the other harbored a single insertion in prfA, encoding PrfA, a master regulator for hly and numerous other virulence genes. Biofilm formation was significantly reduced in the prfA mutant, and to a lesser extent, in the hly mutant. Inactivation of either hly or prfA significantly reduced L. monocytogenes aggregation. However, both mutants adhered similarly to the wildtype parental strain on cantaloupe rind at either 25 or 37°C. Furthermore, growth and competitive fitness of the mutants on cantaloupe rind was not significantly impacted at either temperature. The findings suggest that, in spite of their involvement in biofilm formation and aggregation, these key virulence determinants may not be required for the ability of L. monocytogenes to colonize fresh produce.
Project description:We have isolated, by molecular cloning and genetic complementation of a listeriolysin-negative mutant, a gene required for the expression of this virulence factor in Listeria monocytogenes. The mutant strain SLCC53, which was nonhemolytic and avirulent, harbored a deletion of 450 base pairs located approximately 1500 base pairs upstream of the listeriolysin gene. No transcripts corresponding to the listeriolysin gene were detected in the mutant. DNA sequencing of this region from the hemolytic strain EGD revealed that the region deleted in the mutant would abrogate expression of a 27-kDa polypeptide. Introduction of a recombinant plasmid expressing this 27-kDa polypeptide restored hemolytic activity to the mutant and increased the hemolytic activity of the wild-type L. monocytogenes strain EGD. We have designated the gene encoding the 27-kDa polypeptide prfA, for positive regulatory factor of listeriolysin (lisA) expression. The prfA gene regulates transcription of the lisA gene positively.
Project description:While Listeria seeligeri and L. monocytogenes contain the main Listeria virulence gene cluster, only L. monocytogenes is considered an intracellular pathogen. Initial evolutionary analyses showed that the virulence genes prfA, hly, and plcA are conserved in L. seeligeri, with specific Hly and PrfA amino acid residues showing evidence for positive selection in L. seeligeri. Our data also show that temperature-dependent transcript patterns for prfA, which encodes a transcriptional regulator of virulence genes, differed between L. monocytogenes and L. seeligeri. To further investigate the divergence of virulence gene function and regulation, L. seeligeri prfA (prfA(LS)), hly (hly(LS)), and plcA (plcA(LS)), as well as prfA(LS) constructs with different prfA promoter regions, were introduced into appropriate L. monocytogenes null mutants. Only when prfA(LS) was under the control of the L. monocytogenes prfA promoters (P1- and P2prfA) (P1P2(LM) prfA(LS)) was prfA(LS) able to fully complement the Delta prfA(LM) deletion. hly(LS) introduced into an L. monocytogenes background under its native promoter showed transcript levels similar to those of hly(LM) and was able to partially restore L. monocytogenes wild-type-level hemolysis and intracellular growth, even though Hly(LM) and Hly(LS) showed distinct patterns of cell- and supernatant-associated hemolytic activities. Our data indicate that (i) regulation of prfA expression differs between L. monocytogenes and L. seeligeri, although hly transcription is temperature dependent in both species, and (ii) PrfA and Hly functions are largely, but not fully, conserved between L. seeligeri and L. monocytogenes. Virulence gene homologues and their expression thus appear to have adapted to distinct but possibly related functions in these two species.
Project description:Listeria monocytogenes is a facultative intracellular gram-positive bacterium capable of growing in the cytoplasm of infected host cells. Bacterial escape from the phagosomal vacuole of infected cells is mainly mediated by the pore-forming hemolysin listeriolysin O (LLO) encoded by hly. LLO-negative mutants of L. monocytogenes are avirulent in the mouse model. We have developed a genetic system with hly as a reporter gene allowing the identification of both constitutive and in vivo-inducible promoters of this pathogen. Genomic libraries were created by randomly inserting L. monocytogenes chromosomal fragments upstream of the promoterless hly gene cloned into gram-positive and gram-negative shuttle vectors and expressed in an LLO-negative mutant strain. With this hly-based promoter trap system, combined with access to the L. monocytogenes genome database, we identified 20 in vitro-transcribed genes, including genes encoding (i) p60, a previously known virulence gene, (ii) a putative new hemolysin, and (iii) two proteins of the general protein secretion pathway. By using the hly-based system as an in vivo expression technology tool, nine in vivo-induced loci of L. monocytogenes were identified, including genes encoding (i) the previously known in vivo-inducible phosphatidylinositol phospholipase C and (ii) a putative N-acetylglucosamine epimerase, possibly involved in teichoic acid biosynthesis. The use of hly as a reporter is a simple and powerful alternative to classical methods for transcriptional analysis to monitor promoter activity in L. monocytogenes.
Project description:Expression of the PrfA-controlled virulence gene hly (encoding the pore-forming cytolysin listeriolysin) is under negative regulation by readily metabolized carbon sources in Listeria monocytogenes. However, the hyperhemolytic strain NCTC 7973 exhibits deregulated hly expression in the presence of repressing sugars, raising the possibility that a defect in carbon source regulation is responsible for its anomalous behavior. We show here that the activity of a second glucose-repressed enzyme, alpha-glucosidase, is 10-fold higher in NCTC 7973 than in 10403S. Using hly-gus fusions, we show that the prfA allele from NCTC 7973 causes deregulated hly-gus expression in the presence of sugars in either the wild-type or the NCTC 7973 background, while the 10403S prfA allele restores carbon source regulation. However, the prfA genotype does not affect the regulation of alpha-glucosidase activity by repressing sugars. Of the two mutational differences in PrfA, only a Gly145Ser change is important for regulation of hly-gus. Therefore, NCTC 7973 and 10403S have genetic differences in at least two loci: one in prfA that affects carbon source regulation of virulence genes and another in an unidentified gene(s) that up-regulates alpha-glucosidase activity. We also show that the decrease in pH associated with utilization of sugars negatively regulates hly-gus expression, although sugars can affect hly-gus expression by another mechanism that is independent of pH.
Project description:A nonhemolytic Listeria monocytogenes strain isolated from a fish processing plant was avirulent in a plaque-forming assay and in a subcutaneous mouse virulence assay. However, it showed 60% lethality (9/15 mice) when 10? CFU were intraperitoneally injected into mice. Hemolytic L. monocytogenes bacteria were recovered from liver and spleen of the deceased mice, and the pulsed-field gel electrophoresis patterns were indistinguishable for the nonhemolytic and the hemolytic isolates. Sequencing of prfA from the nonhemolytic strain revealed a duplication of 7 bp in the helix-turn-helix region, resulting in a truncated PrfA protein. We propose that the direct repeat of 7 bp causes a reversible inactivation of prfA and that slipped-strand mispairing regulates the phase variation in hemolytic activity and virulence. Nonhemolytic L. monocytogenes strains with identical duplications in prfA were isolated from several sources in France, as well as in Norway, suggesting that the reversible inactivation described in this study is not an isolated event.