Constitutive Activation of PrfA Tilts the Balance of Listeria monocytogenes Fitness Towards Life within the Host versus Environmental Survival
journal contributionposted on 2011-05-26, 00:00 authored by Joseph C. Jr. Bruno, Nancy E. Freitag
PrfA is a key regulator of Listeria monocytogenes pathogenesis and induces the expression of multiple virulence factors within the infected host. PrfA is post-translationally regulated such that the protein becomes activated upon bacterial entry into the cell cytosol. The signal that triggers PrfA activation remains unknown, however mutations have been identified (prfA* mutations) that lock the protein into a high activity state. In this report we examine the consequences of constitutive PrfA activation on L. monocytogenes fitness both in vitro and in vivo. Whereas prfA* mutants were hyper-virulent during animal infection, the mutants were compromised for fitness in broth culture and under conditions of stress. Broth culture prfA*-associated fitness defects were alleviated when glycerol was provided as the principal carbon source; under these conditions prfA* mutants exhibited a competitive advantage over wild type strains. Glycerol and other three carbon sugars have been reported to serve as primary carbon sources for L. monocytogenes during cytosolic growth, thus prfA* mutants are metabolically-primed for replication within eukaryotic cells. These results indicate the critical need for environment-appropriate regulation of PrfA activity to enable L. monocytogenes to optimize bacterial fitness inside and outside of host cells.