C-di-AMP accumulation disrupts glutathione metabolism and inhibits virulence program expression in Listeria monocytogenes

bioRxiv [Preprint]. 2024 Jan 18:2024.01.18.576247. doi: 10.1101/2024.01.18.576247.


C-di-AMP is an essential second messenger in many bacteria but its levels must be regulated. Unregulated c-di-AMP accumulation attenuates the virulence of many bacterial pathogens, including those that do not require c-di-AMP for growth. However, the mechanisms by which c-di-AMP regulates bacterial pathogenesis remain poorly understood. In Listeria monocytogenes , a mutant lacking both c-di-AMP phosphodiesterases, denoted as the ΔPDE mutant, accumulates a high c-di-AMP level and is significantly attenuated in the mouse model of systemic infection. All key L. monocytogenes virulence genes are transcriptionally upregulated by the master transcription factor PrfA, which is activated by reduced glutathione (GSH) during infection. Our transcriptomic analysis revealed that the ΔPDE mutant is significantly impaired for the expression of virulence genes within the PrfA core regulon. Subsequent quantitative gene expression analyses validated this phenotype both at the basal level and upon PrfA activation by GSH. A constitutively active PrfA * variant, PrfA G145S, which mimics the GSH-bound conformation, restores virulence gene expression in ΔPDE but only partially rescues virulence defect. Through GSH quantification and uptake assays, we found that the ΔPDE strain is significantly depleted for GSH, and that c-di-AMP inhibits GSH uptake. Constitutive expression of gshF (encoding a GSH synthetase) does not restore GSH levels in the ΔPDE strain, suggesting that c-di-AMP inhibits GSH synthesis activity or promotes GSH catabolism. Taken together, our data reveals GSH metabolism as another pathway that is regulated by c-di-AMP. C-di-AMP accumulation depletes cytoplasmic GSH levels within L. monocytogenes that leads to impaired virulence program expression.

Importance: C-di-AMP regulates both bacterial pathogenesis and interactions with the host. Although c-di-AMP is essential in many bacteria, its accumulation also attenuates the virulence of many bacterial pathogens. Therefore, disrupting c-di-AMP homeostasis is a promising antibacterial treatment strategy, and has inspired several studies that screened for chemical inhibitors of c-di-AMP phosphodiesterases. However, the mechanisms by which c-di-AMP accumulation diminishes bacterial pathogenesis are poorly understood. Such understanding will reveal the molecular function of c-di-AMP, and inform therapeutic development strategies. Here, we identify GSH metabolism as a pathway regulated by c-di-AMP that is pertinent to L. monocytogenes replication in the host. Given the role of GSH as a virulence signal, nutrient, and antioxidant, GSH depletion impairs virulence program expression and likely diminishes host adaptation.

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  • Preprint