Using a Bacterial Pathogen to Probe for Cellular and Organismic-level Host Responses

This article has been accepted and is currently in production


There are a variety of strategies bacterial pathogens employ to survive and proliferate once inside the eukaryotic cell. The so-called 'cytosolic' pathogens (Listeria monocytogenes, Shigella flexneri, Burkholderia pseudomallei, Francisella tularensis, and Rickettsia spp.) gain access to the infected cell cytosol by physically and enzymatically degrading the primary vacuolar membrane. Once in the cytosol, these pathogens both proliferate as well as generate sufficient mechanical forces to penetrate the plasma membrane of the host cell in order to infect new cells. Here, we show how this terminal step of the cellular infection cycle of L. monocytogenes (Lm) can be quantified by both colony-forming unit assays and flow cytometry and give examples of how both pathogen- and host-encoded factors impact this process. We also show a close correspondence of Lm infection dynamics of cultured cells infected in vitro and those of hepatic cells derived from mice infected in vivo. These function-based assays are relatively simple and can be readily scaled up for discovery-based high-throughput screens for modulators of eukaryotic cell function.