A redox-responsive transcription factor is critical for pathogenesis and aerobic growth of Listeria monocytogenes

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Bacterial pathogens have evolved sophisticated mechanisms to sense and adapt to redox stress in nature and within the host. However, deciphering the redox environment encountered by intracellular pathogens in the mammalian cytosol is challenging, and that environment remains poorly understood. In this study, we assessed the contributions of the two redox-responsive, Spx-family transcriptional regulators to the virulence of Listeria monocytogenes, a Gram-positive facultative intracellular pathogen. Spx-family proteins are highly conserved in Firmicutes, and the L. monocytogenes genome contains two paralogues, spxA1 and spxA2. Here, we demonstrate that spxA1, but not spxA2, is required for the oxidative stress response and pathogenesis. SpxA1 function appeared to be conserved with the Bacillus subtilis homologue, and resistance to oxidative stress required the canonical CXXC redox-sensing motif. Remarkably, spxA1 was essential for aerobic growth, demonstrating that L. monocytogenes SpxA1 likely regulates a distinct set of genes. Although the ΔspxA1 mutant did not grow in the presence of oxygen in the laboratory, it was able to replicate in macrophages and colonize the spleens, but not the livers, of infected mice. These data suggest that the redox state of bacteria during infection differs significantly from that of bacteria growing in vitro. Further, the host cell cytosol may resemble an anaerobic environment, with tissue-specific variations in redox stress and oxygen concentration.




Whiteley, A. T., Ruhland, B. R., Edrozo, M. B., & Reniere, M. L. (2017). A redox-responsive transcription factor is critical for pathogenesis and aerobic growth of Listeria monocytogenes. Infection and Immunity, 85(5). https://doi.org/10.1128/IAI.00978-16

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