OrfX, a Nucleomodulin Required for Listeria monocytogenes Virulence

mBio. 2017 Oct 31;8(5):e01550-17. doi: 10.1128/mBio.01550-17.


Listeria monocytogenes is a bacterial pathogen causing severe foodborne infections in humans and animals. Listeria can enter into host cells and survive and multiply therein, due to an arsenal of virulence determinants encoded in different loci on the chromosome. Several key Listeria virulence genes are clustered in Listeria pathogenicity island 1. This important locus also contains orfX (lmo0206), a gene of unknown function. Here, we found that OrfX is a small, secreted protein whose expression is positively regulated by PrfA, the major transcriptional activator of Listeria virulence genes. We provide evidence that OrfX is a virulence factor that dampens the oxidative response of infected macrophages, which contributes to intracellular survival of bacteria. OrfX is targeted to the nucleus and interacts with the regulatory protein RybP. We show that in macrophages, the expression of OrfX decreases the level of RybP, which controls cellular infection. Collectively, these data reveal that Listeria targets RybP and evades macrophage oxidative stress for efficient infection. Altogether, OrfX is after LntA, the second virulence factor acting directly in the nucleus.IMPORTANCEListeria monocytogenes is a model bacterium that has been successfully used over the last 30 years to refine our understanding of the molecular, cellular, and tissular mechanisms of microbial pathogenesis. The major virulence factors of pathogenic Listeria species are located on a single chromosomal locus. Here, we report that the last gene of this locus encodes a small secreted nucleomodulin, OrfX, that is required for bacterial survival within macrophages and in the infected host. This work demonstrates that the production of OrfX contributes to limiting the host innate immune response by dampening the oxidative response of macrophages. We also identify a target of OrfX, RybP, which is an essential pleiotropic regulatory protein of the cell, and uncover its role in host defense. Our data reinforce the view that the secretion of nucleomodulins is an important strategy used by microbial pathogens to promote infection.

Keywords: RybP; Listeria monocytogenes; nucleomodulin; oxidative burst; pathogenesis.

MeSH terms

  • A549 Cells
  • Animals
  • Bacterial Load
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics*
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • HEK293 Cells
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / genetics
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism
  • Listeria monocytogenes / genetics*
  • Listeria monocytogenes / pathogenicity*
  • Listeriosis / microbiology
  • Liver / microbiology
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Macrophages / microbiology
  • Mice
  • Peptide Termination Factors / genetics
  • Peptide Termination Factors / metabolism
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • Repressor Proteins
  • Spleen / microbiology
  • Virulence
  • Virulence Factors / genetics*
  • Virulence Factors / metabolism


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Peptide Termination Factors
  • PrfA protein, Listeria monocytogenes
  • RNA-Binding Proteins
  • RYBP protein, human
  • Repressor Proteins
  • Virulence Factors