Auto, a Surface Associated Autolysin of Listeria Monocytogenes Required for Entry Into Eukaryotic Cells and Virulence

Mol Microbiol. 2004 Mar;51(6):1601-14. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2003.03945.x.


Listeria monocytogenes is an opportunistic food-borne human and animal pathogen. Several surface proteins expressed by this intracellular pathogen are critical for the infectious process. By in silico analysis we compared the surface protein repertories of L. monocytogenes and of the non-pathogenic species Listeria innocua and identified a gene encoding a surface protein of L. monocytogenes absent in L. innocua. This gene that we named aut encodes a protein (Auto) of 572 amino acids containing a signal sequence, a N-terminal autolysin domain and a C-terminal cell wall-anchoring domain made up of four GW modules. We show here that the aut gene is expressed independently of the virulence gene regulator PrfA and encodes a surface protein with an autolytic activity. We provide evidence that Auto is required for entry of L. monocytogenes into cultured non-phagocytic eukaryotic cells. The low invasiveness of an aut deletion mutant correlates with its reduced virulence following intravenous inoculation of mice and oral infection of guinea pigs. During infection, the autolytic activity of Auto may also be critical. Auto appears thus as a novel type of L. monocytogenes virulence factor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Bacterial Adhesion
  • Bacterial Proteins / chemistry
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Brain / microbiology
  • Cell Line
  • Eukaryotic Cells / microbiology*
  • Female
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Humans
  • Intestines / microbiology
  • Listeria monocytogenes / pathogenicity*
  • Listeria monocytogenes / physiology*
  • Listeriosis / microbiology*
  • Liver / microbiology
  • Lymph Nodes / microbiology
  • Membrane Proteins / chemistry
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • N-Acetylmuramoyl-L-alanine Amidase / chemistry
  • N-Acetylmuramoyl-L-alanine Amidase / genetics
  • N-Acetylmuramoyl-L-alanine Amidase / metabolism*
  • Spleen / microbiology
  • Virulence


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Auto autolysin, Listeria monocytogenes
  • N-Acetylmuramoyl-L-alanine Amidase