Molecular characterisation of the mechanisms of compatible solute accumulation in Listeria monocytogenes

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Sleator, Roy D.
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University College Cork
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The ability of the Gram-positive foodborne pathogen Listeria monocytogenes to survive and grow in environments of elevated osmolarity can be attributed, at least in part, to the accumulation of a restricted range of low molecular mass solutes compatible with cellular function. Accumulated to high internal concentrations in hyper-saline environments, compatible solutes, either transported into the cell or synthesized de novo, play a dual role: helping to stabilize protein structure and function while also counterbalancing external osmotic strength, thus preventing water loss from the cell and plasmolysis. While previous physiological investigations identified glycine betaine, carnitine, and proline as the principal compatible solutes in the listerial osmostress response, genetic alanysis of the uptake/synthesis systems governing the accumulation of these compounds has, until now, remained largely unexplored. Representing the first genetic analysis of compatible solute accumulation in L. monocytogenes, this thesis describes the molecular characterization of BetL; a highly specific secondary glycine betaine transport system, OpuC; a multicomponent carnitine/glycine betaine transporter, and finally proBA; a two-gene operon encoding the first two enzymes of the listerial proline piosynthesis pathway. In addition to their role in osmotolerance, the potential of each system in contributing to listerial pathogenesis was investigated. While mutations in each gene cluster exhibited dramatic reductions in listerial osmotolerance, OpuC- mutants were additionally shown to exhibit reduced virulence when admisistered via the oral route. This represents the first direct link between the salt stress response and virulence in L. monocytogenes.
Bacterial osmoadaptation , Listeria monocytogenes
Sleator, R. D. 2001. Molecular characterisation of the mechanisms of compatible solute accumulation in Listeria monocytogenes. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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