Exposure to Broad-Spectrum Visible Light Causes Major Transcriptomic Changes in Listeria monocytogenes EGDe

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2019 Oct 30;85(22):e01462-19. doi: 10.1128/AEM.01462-19. Print 2019 Nov 15.


Listeria monocytogenes, the causative agent of the serious foodborne disease listeriosis, can rapidly adapt to a wide range of environmental stresses, including visible light. This study shows that exposure of the L. monocytogenes EGDe strain to low-intensity, broad-spectrum visible light inhibited bacterial growth and caused altered multicellular behavior during growth on semisolid agar compared to when the bacteria were grown in complete darkness. These light-dependent changes were observed regardless of the presence of the blue light receptor (Lmo0799) and the stressosome regulator sigma B (SigB), which have been suggested to be important for the ability of L. monocytogenes to respond to blue light. A genome-wide transcriptional analysis revealed that exposure of L. monocytogenes EGDe to broad-spectrum visible light caused altered expression of 2,409 genes belonging to 18 metabolic pathways compared to bacteria grown in darkness. The light-dependent differentially expressed genes are involved in functions such as glycan metabolism, cell wall synthesis, chemotaxis, flagellar synthesis, and resistance to oxidative stress. Exposure to light conferred reduced bacterial motility in semisolid agar, which correlates well with the light-dependent reduction in transcript levels of flagellar and chemotaxis genes. Similar light-induced reduction in growth and motility was also observed in two different L. monocytogenes food isolates, suggesting that these responses are typical for L. monocytogenes Together, the results show that even relatively small doses of broad-spectrum visible light cause genome-wide transcriptional changes, reduced growth, and motility in L. monocytogenes IMPORTANCE Despite major efforts to control L. monocytogenes, this pathogen remains a major problem for the food industry, where it poses a continuous risk of food contamination. The ability of L. monocytogenes to sense and adapt to different stressors in the environment enables it to persist in many different niches, including food production facilities and in food products. The present study shows that exposure of L. monocytogenes to low-intensity broad-spectrum visible light reduces its growth and motility and alters its multicellular behavior. Light exposure also caused genome-wide changes in transcript levels, affecting multiple metabolic pathways, which are likely to influence the bacterial physiology and lifestyle. In practical terms, the data presented in this study suggest that broad-spectrum visible light is an important environmental variable to consider as a strategy to improve food safety by reducing L. monocytogenes contamination in food production environments.

Keywords: EGDe; Listeria monocytogenes; broad-spectrum visible light; environmental stress; flagellar motility; growth inhibition; transcriptome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Food Microbiology
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Genome, Bacterial*
  • Light*
  • Listeria monocytogenes / genetics*
  • Listeria monocytogenes / growth & development
  • Listeria monocytogenes / radiation effects*
  • Listeriosis / microbiology
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways / radiation effects
  • Transcriptome / radiation effects*