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Listeria monocytogenes Flagella Are Used for Motility, Not as Adhesins, To Increase Host Cell Invasion

O'Neil, Heather S., Marquis, Hélène
Infection and immunity 2006 v.74 no.12 pp. 6675-6681
Listeria monocytogenes, adhesins, adhesion, bacteria, cell invasion, epithelial cells, flagellum, humans, ingestion, intestines, liver, mice, pathogens, plate count, secretion, tissue culture, virulence
Flagellar structures contribute to the virulence of multiple gastrointestinal pathogens either as the effectors of motility, as adhesins, or as a secretion apparatus for virulence factors. Listeria monocytogenes is a food-borne, gram-positive pathogen that uses flagella to increase the efficiency of epithelial cell invasion (A. Bigot, H. Pagniez, E. Botton, C. Frehel, I. Dubail, C. Jacquet, A. Charbit, and C. Raynaud, Infect. Immun. 73:5530-5539, 2005; L. Dons, E. Eriksson, Y. Jin, M. E. Rottenberg, K. Kristensson, C. N. Larsen, J. Bresciani, and J. E. Olsen, Infect. Immun. 72:3237-3244, 2004). In this study, we aimed to elucidate the mechanism by which flagella contribute to L. monocytogenes invasion. To examine the role of flagella as adhesins, invasion and adhesion assays were performed with flagellated motile and nonmotile bacteria and nonflagellated bacteria. We observed that flagellated but nonmotile bacteria do not adhere to or invade human epithelial cells more efficiently than nonflagellated bacteria. These results indicated that flagella do not function as adhesins to enhance the adhesion of L. monocytogenes to targeted host cells. Instead, it appears that motility is important for tissue culture invasion. Furthermore, we tested whether motility contributes to early colonization of the gastrointestinal tract using a competitive index assay in which mice were infected orally with motile and nonmotile bacteria in a 1:1 ratio. Differential bacterial counts demonstrated that motile bacteria outcompete nonmotile bacteria in the colonization of the intestines at early time points postinfection. This difference is also reflected in invasion of the liver 12 h later, suggesting that flagellum-mediated motility enhances L. monocytogenes infectivity soon after bacterial ingestion in vivo.