Exploration of host-pathogen interactions using Listeria monocytogenes and Drosophila melanogaster

Cell Microbiol. 2003 Dec;5(12):901-11. doi: 10.1046/j.1462-5822.2003.00329.x.


The facultative intracellular bacterial pathogen Listeria monocytogenes is capable of replicating within a broad range of host cell types and host species. We report here the establishment of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster as a new model host for the exploration of L. monocytogenes pathogenesis and host response to infection. Listeria monocytogenes was capable of establishing lethal infections in adult fruit flies and larvae with extensive bacterial replication occurring before host death. Bacteria were found in the cytosol of insect phagocytic cells, and were capable of directing host cell actin polymerization. Bacterial gene products necessary for intracellular replication and cell-to-cell spread within mammalian cells were similarly found to be required within insect cells, and although previous work has suggested that L. monocytogenes virulence gene expression requires temperatures above 30 degrees C, bacteria within insect cells were found to express virulence determinants at 25 degrees C. Mutant strains of Drosophila that were compromised for innate immune responses demonstrated increased susceptibility to L. monocytogenes infection. These data indicate L. monocytogenes infection of fruit flies shares numerous features of mammalian infection, and thus that Drosophila has the potential to serve as a genetically tractable host system that will facilitate the analysis of host cellular responses to L. monocytogenes infection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Actins / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Cell Line
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Cytosol / microbiology
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics
  • Drosophila melanogaster / microbiology*
  • Gene Deletion
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Listeria monocytogenes / genetics
  • Listeria monocytogenes / growth & development
  • Listeria monocytogenes / pathogenicity*
  • Listeriosis / microbiology
  • Listeriosis / pathology
  • Mutagenesis, Insertional
  • Phagocytes / microbiology
  • Temperature
  • Transcription Factors
  • Virulence Factors / genetics


  • Actins
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Dif protein, Drosophila
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • Virulence Factors
  • imd protein, Drosophila