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Listeria monocytogenes Grown at 7°C Shows Reduced Acid Survival and an Altered Transcriptional Response to Acid Shock Compared to L. monocytogenes Grown at 37°C

Ivy, R. A., Wiedmann, M., Boor, K. J.
Applied and environmental microbiology 2012 v.78 no.11 pp. 3824-3836
Listeria monocytogenes, adaptation, bacteria, food storage, gastric juice, gene expression, humans, listeriosis, microarray technology, operon, pathogen survival, proteins, ready-to-eat foods, stomach, temperature
Survival of the food-borne pathogen Listeria monocytogenes in acidic environments (e.g., in the human stomach) is vital to its transmission. Refrigerated, ready-to-eat foods have been sources of listeriosis outbreaks. The purpose of this study was to determine whether growth at a low temperature (i.e., 7°C) affects L. monocytogenes survival or gene transcription after exposure to a simulated gastric environment (i.e., acid shock at 37°C). L. monocytogenes cells grown at 7°C were less resistant to artificial gastric fluid (AGF) or acidified brain heart infusion broth (ABHI) than bacteria grown at higher temperatures (i.e., 30°C or 37°C). For L. monocytogenes grown at 7°C, stationary-phase cells were more resistant to ABHI than log-phase cells, indicating that both temperature and growth phase affect acid survival. Microarray transcriptomic analysis revealed that the number and functional categories of genes differentially expressed after acid shock differed according to both growth temperature and growth phase. The acid response of L. monocytogenes grown to log phase at 37°C involved stress-related transcriptional regulators (i.e., σB, σH, CtsR, and HrcA), some of which have been implicated in adaptation to the intracellular environment. In contrast, for bacteria grown at 7°C to stationary phase, acid exposure did not result in differential expression of the stress regulons examined. However, two large operons encoding bacteriophage-like proteins were induced, suggesting lysogenic prophage induction. The adaptive transcriptional response observed in 37°C-grown cells was largely absent in 7°C-grown cells, suggesting that temperatures commonly encountered during food storage and distribution affect the ability of L. monocytogenes to survive gastric passage and ultimately cause disease.