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J Immunol. 2008 Mar 15;180(6):4116-23.

IFN-beta increases listeriolysin O-induced membrane permeabilization and death of macrophages.

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  • 1Max F. Perutz Laboratories, Vienna Biocenter, Department of Microbiology and Immunobiology, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria.


Type I IFN (IFN-I) signaling is detrimental to cells and mice infected with Listeria monocytogenes. In this study, we investigate the impact of IFN-I on the activity of listeriolysin O (LLO), a pore-forming toxin and virulence protein released by L. monocytogenes. Treatment of macrophages with IFN-beta increased the ability of sublytic LLO concentrations to cause transient permeability of the plasma membrane. At higher LLO concentrations, IFN-beta enhanced the complete breakdown of membrane integrity and cell death. This activity of IFN-beta required Stat1. Perturbation of the plasma membrane by LLO resulted in activation of the p38MAPK pathway. IFN-beta pretreatment enhanced LLO-mediated signaling through this pathway, consistent with its ability to increase membrane damage. p38MAPK activation in response to LLO was independent of TLR4, a putative LLO receptor, and inhibition of p38MAPK neither enhanced nor prevented LLO-induced death. IFN-beta caused cells to express increased amounts of caspase 1 and to produce a detectable caspase 1 cleavage product after LLO treatment. Contrasting recent reports with another pore-forming toxin, this pathway did not aid cell survival as caspase 1-deficient cells were equally sensitive to lysis by LLO. Key lipogenesis enzymes were suppressed in IFN-beta-treated cells, which may exacerbate the membrane damage caused by LLO.

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