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Fatty Acids Regulate Stress Resistance and Virulence Factor Production for Listeria monocytogenes

Sun, Yvonne, Wilkinson, Brian J., Standiford, Theodore J., Akinbi, Henry T., O'Riordan, Mary X. D.
Journal of bacteriology 2012 v.194 no.19 pp. 5274-5284
Listeria monocytogenes, antimicrobial peptides, cell membranes, defense mechanisms, fatty acids, food pathogens, host-pathogen relationships, hydrolases, macrophages, metabolism, microorganisms, pH, peptidoglycans, phagosomes, stress tolerance, temperature, topology, virulence
Fatty acids (FAs) are the major structural component of cellular membranes, which provide a physical and chemical barrier that insulates intracellular reactions from environmental fluctuations. The native composition of membrane FAs establishes the topological and chemical parameters for membrane-associated functions and is therefore modulated diligently by microorganisms especially in response to environmental stresses. However, the consequences of altered FA composition during host-pathogen interactions are poorly understood. The food-borne pathogen Listeria monocytogenes contains mostly saturated branched-chain FAs (BCFAs), which support growth at low pH and low temperature. In this study, we show that anteiso-BCFAs enhance bacterial resistance against phagosomal killing in macrophages. Specifically, BCFAs protect against antimicrobial peptides and peptidoglycan hydrolases, two classes of phagosome antimicrobial defense mechanisms. In addition, the production of the critical virulence factor, listeriolysin O, was compromised by FA modulation, suggesting that FAs play a key role in virulence regulation. In summary, our results emphasize the significance of FA metabolism, not only in bacterial virulence regulation but also in membrane barrier function by providing resistance against host antimicrobial stress.