Acquired cell-mediated immunity to Listeria monocytogenes is induced by infection with live, replicating bacteria that grow in the host cell cytosol, whereas killed bacteria, or those trapped in a phagosome, fail to induce protective immunity. In this chapter, we focus on how L. monocytogenes is sensed by the innate immune system, with the presumption that innate immunity affects the development of acquired immunity. Infection by L. monocytogenes induces three innate immune pathways: an MyD88-dependent pathway emanating from a phagosome leading to expression of inflammatory cytokines; a STING/IRF3-dependent pathway emanating from the cytosol leading to the expression of IFN-β and coregulated genes; and very low levels of a Caspase-1-dependent, AIM2-dependent inflammasome pathway resulting in proteolytic activation and secretion of IL-1β and IL-18 and pyroptotic cell death. Using a combination of genetics and biochemistry, we identified the listerial ligand that activates the STING/IRF3 pathway as secreted cyclic diadenosine monophosphate, a newly discovered conserved bacterial signaling molecule. We also identified L. monocytogenes mutants that caused robust inflammasome activation due to bacteriolysis in the cytosol, release of DNA, and activation of the AIM2 inflammasome. A strain was constructed that ectopically expressed and secreted a fusion protein containing Legionella pneumophila flagellin that robustly activated the Nlrc4-dependent inflammasome and was highly attenuated in mice, also in an Nlrc4-dependent manner. Surprisingly, this strain was a poor inducer of adaptive immunity, suggesting that inflammasome activation is not necessary to induce cell-mediated immunity and may even be detrimental under some conditions. To the best of our knowledge, no single innate immune pathway is necessary to mount a robust acquired immune response to L. monocytogenes infection.
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