Aims: To study the expression of cellular antigens of Listeria monocytogenes that react with monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) C11E9 and EM-7G1 under acid-, salt- or temperature-induced stress environments.
Methods and results: The reaction patterns of antibodies to L. monocytogenes held in stressful environments for a short duration (3 h) or grown for extended periods (16-72 h) were investigated. During both short or prolonged exposure to stress environments of high temperature (45 degrees C) and NaCl (>1.5%, w/v), reactions of whole cells of L. monocytogenes to antibodies were severely affected as determined by ELISA and by the reduced expression of the antibody-reactive 66 kDa antigen in the Western blot assay. Conversely, cold (4-15 degrees C) or acid (pH 2-3) stress environments had very little effect on antigen expression or antibody reaction. Additionally, heat-killed cells showed reduced reactions to these antibodies when compared with unheated cells. Artificially created stress environments in hotdog slurry also affected the antigen expression in L. monocytogenes. Immunoelectron microscopy revealed that the antibody-reactive antigens were uniformly present on the surface of the cells. Morphological characteristics following growth in stressed environments revealed that heat stress at 45 degrees C caused L. monocytogenes cells to be elongated and to form clumps; whereas, osmotic stress (5.5% NaCl, w/v) caused filamentous appearance with multiple septa along the length of the cell.
Conclusions: These results indicated that MAb C11E9 or EM-7G1 could detect L. monocytogenes from cold or acid-stress environments; however, they may show weaker reactions with heat or osmotically stressed cells or cells grown at 4 degrees C.
Significance and impact of the study: Bacteria in food are routinely subjected to various stresses, induced by cold, heat, salt or acid during processing and storage. Whether stresses would modify the expression of cellular antigens of L. monocytogenes is of a great concern for immunodetections in food products.