RNAi screen reveals host cell kinases specifically involved in Listeria monocytogenes spread from cell to cell

PLoS One. 2011;6(8):e23399. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0023399. Epub 2011 Aug 10.


Intracellular bacterial pathogens, such as Listeria monocytogenes and Rickettsia conorii display actin-based motility in the cytosol of infected cells and spread from cell to cell through the formation of membrane protrusions at the cell cortex. Whereas the mechanisms supporting cytosolic actin-based motility are fairly well understood, it is unclear whether specific host factors may be required for supporting the formation and resolution of membrane protrusions. To address this gap in knowledge, we have developed high-throughput fluorescence microscopy and computer-assisted image analysis procedures to quantify pathogen spread in human epithelial cells. We used the approach to screen a siRNA library covering the human kinome and identified 7 candidate kinases whose depletion led to severe spreading defects in cells infected with L. monocytogenes. We conducted systematic validation procedures with redundant silencing reagents and confirmed the involvement of the serine/threonine kinases, CSNK1A1 and CSNK2B. We conducted secondary assays showing that, in contrast with the situation observed in CSNK2B-depleted cells, L. monocytogenes formed wild-type cytosolic tails and displayed wild-type actin-based motility in the cytosol of CSNK1A1-depleted cells. Furthermore, we developed a protrusion formation assay and showed that the spreading defect observed in CSNK1A1-depleted cells correlated with the formation of protrusion that did not resolve into double-membrane vacuoles. Moreover, we developed sending and receiving cell-specific RNAi procedures and showed that CSNK1A was required in the sending cells, but was dispensable in the receiving cells, for protrusion resolution. Finally, we showed that the observed defects were specific to Listeria monocytogenes, as Rickettsia conorii displayed wild-type cell-to-cell spread in CSNK1A1- and CSNK2B-depleted cells. We conclude that, in addition to the specific host factors supporting cytosolic actin-based motility, such as CSNK2B, Listeria monocytogenes requires specific host factors, such as CSNK1A1 in order to form productive membrane protrusions and spread from cell to cell.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Actins / metabolism
  • Cell Surface Extensions / metabolism
  • Cytosol / metabolism
  • Genetic Testing*
  • HeLa Cells
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Listeria monocytogenes / cytology*
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Movement
  • Phosphotransferases / metabolism*
  • RNA Interference*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Rickettsia conorii / cytology


  • Actins
  • Phosphotransferases