Molecular biology of surface colonization by Listeria monocytogenes: an additional facet of an opportunistic Gram-positive foodborne pathogen

Authors


E-mail mickael.desvaux@clermont.inra.fr; Tel. (+33) 4 73 62 47 23; Fax (+33) 4 73 62 45 81.

Summary

The opportunistic and facultative intracellular pathogenic bacterium Listeria monocytogenes causes a rare but severe foodborne disease called listeriosis, the outcome of which can be fatal. The infection cycle and key virulence factors are now well characterized in this species. Nonetheless, this knowledge has not prevented the re-emergence of listeriosis, as recently reported in several European countries. Listeria monocytogenes is particularly problematic in the food industry since it can survive and multiply under conditions frequently used for food preservation. Moreover, this foodborne pathogen also forms biofilms, which increase its persistence and resistance in industrial production lines, leading to contamination of food products. Significant differences have been reported regarding the ability of different isolates to form biofilms, but no clear correlation can be established with serovars or lineages. The architecture of listerial biofilms varies greatly from one strain to another as it ranges from bacterial monolayers to the most recently described network of knitted chains. While the role of polysaccharides as part of the extracellular matrix contributing to listerial biofilm formation remains elusive, the importance of eDNA has been demonstrated. The involvement of flagella in biofilm formation has also been pointed out, but their exact role in the process remains to be clarified because of conflicting results. Two cell–cell communication systems LuxS and Agr have been shown to take part in the regulation of biofilm formation. Several additional molecular determinants have been identified by functional genetic analyses, such as the (p)ppGpp synthetase RelA and more recently BapL. Future directions and questions about the molecular mechanisms of biofilm formation in L. monocytogenes are further discussed, such as correlation between clonal complexes as revealed by MLST and biofilm formation, the swarming over swimming regulation hypothesis regarding the role of the flagella, and the involvement of microbial surface components recognizing adhesive matrix molecules in the colonization of abiotic and biotic surfaces.

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