Listeria monocytogenes (Lm) is a model intracellular bacterial pathogen that causes serious foodborne illness in pregnant women, the elderly, and immunocompromised individuals. Lm uses flagellar (swimming) motility to survive in extracellular environmental niches and aid in the invasion of host cells. During intracellular infection, Lm uses actin-based motility to move within the cytosol and spread from cell-to-cell. Reciprocal expression of flagellar and actin-based motility in response to environmental cues is critical to extracellular survival and intracellular pathogenesis of Lm. ActA is a surface protein that mediates actin- based motility, while PrfA (a DNA binding transcriptional activator) and the 5'untranslated region (5'UTR) of actA transcripts function to achieve high-level compartment-specific expression of ActA in the cytosol. In contrast, flagellar motility is repressed in the intracellular environment and expressed during extracellular growth in response to temperature via a regulatory cascade involving MogR (a DNA binding transcriptional repressor), DegU (a response regulator), and GmaR (an anti-repressor for MogR). The focus of this proposal is to elucidate the molecular mechanisms governing the reciprocal regulation of flagellar and actin-based motility in response to temperature and the intracellular environment.
In Aim I, the precise contribution of the PrfA-regulated promoter and 5'UTR of actA for compartment-specific expression in the cytosol will be determined. This will be accomplished using actA-gfp reporter fusions in wild-type and mutant strains defective for progression through specific stages of intracellular infection. Quantitative fluorescence and time- lapse video microscopy will be used to define the level and kinetics of expression within individual bacterial cells.
In Aim II, specific accessory factors that govern DegU-mediated transcriptional activation of gmaR in response to low temperature will be identified using DNA affinity purification and random transposon mutagenesis. Accessory factor mutant strains will be evaluated for GmaR expression and flagellar motility. The protein/DNA interactions controlling temperature-dependent activation of gmaR will be determined by co-affinity purification and gel mobility shift analysis.
In Aim III, we will define the precise structural and mechanistic features that mediate anti-repression via direct GmaR:MogR interaction. Co-affinity purification analysis of MogR truncation proteins with full-length GmaR and evaluation of GmaR truncation proteins for complementation of flagellar motility will be performed.
In Aim I V, insight into host-derived signals that are sensed to regulate expression of ActA will be determined by fractionation and purification of serum-derived components that activate actA-gfp fusion constructs. The precise step in the flagellar expression cascade that is inhibited during intracellular infection at low temperature will be determined by characterizing production and function of DegU, accessory factors, and GmaR during intracellular infection. Project Narrative Listeria monocytogenes is a bacterial pathogen that grows inside of human cells and causes serious foodborne illness. Persistence in food processing environments and infection of human cells is facilitated by the ability of bacteria to become motile in response to sensing environmental signals such as extracellular temperature and the intracellular environment. The proposed studies will determine the molecular mechanisms that L. monocytogenes uses to regulate motility in response to environmental cues, thus providing valuable insight into fundamental mechanisms of bacterial pathogenesis.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
Research Project (R01)
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Bacterial Pathogenesis Study Section (BACP)
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Mills, Melody
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Harvard University
Schools of Medicine
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