Eukaryotic expression plasmid transfer from the intracellular bacterium Listeria monocytogenes to host cells


Present addresses: †Marc Hense, Madaus, Ostmerheimerstr. 198, D-51109 Köln, Germany; ‡Petra Wachholz, Department of Upper Respiratory Medicine, Imperial College, Manresa Road, Emmanuel Kaye Building, London SW3 6LR, UK. *For correspondence. E-mail; Tel. (+49) 531 6181 230; Fax (+49) 531 6181 444.


The facultative intracellular, Gram-positive bacterium Listeria monocytogenes invades phagocytic and non-phagocytic cells from the tissues and organs of a wide variety of animals and humans. Here, we report the use of these bacteria as vehicles for gene transfer. Eukaryotic expression plasmids were introduced into the nucleus of host cells following lysis of the intracytosolic, plasmid-carrying bacteria with antibiotics. Cell lines of different tissues and species could be transfected in this way. We examined bacterial properties required for delivery of the expression plasmids and found that this was strictly dependent on the ability of these bacteria to both invade eukaryotic cells and egress from the vacuole into the cytosol of the infected host cells. Macrophage-like cell lines or primary, peritoneal macrophages proved to be almost refractory to Listeria-mediated gene transfer. Thus, attenuated L. monocytogenes represents a serious candidate for consideration as a DNA-transfer vehicle for in vivo somatic gene therapy. The potential for oral administration of L. monocytogenes and the ease in producing and cultivating recombinant strains are further attributes that make its use as a gene transfer vehicle attractive.