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Mol Microbiol. 2001 Mar;39(5):1212-24.

The autolysin Ami contributes to the adhesion of Listeria monocytogenes to eukaryotic cells via its cell wall anchor.

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Laboratoire de Microbiologie, Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale U 411, Faculté de Médecine Necker-Enfants Malades, 75730 Paris Cedex 15, France.


Adherence of pathogenic microorganisms to the cell surface is a key event during infection. We have previously reported the characterization of Listeria monocytogenes transposon mutants defective in adhesion to eukaryotic cells. One of these mutants had lost the ability to produce Ami, a 102 kDa autolytic amidase with an N-terminal catalytic domain and a C-terminal cell wall-anchoring domain made up of repeated modules containing the dipeptide GW ('GW modules'). We generated ami null mutations by plasmid insertion into L. monocytogenes strains lacking the invasion proteins InlA (EGDDeltainlA), InlB (EGDDeltainlB) or both (EGDDeltainlAB). These mutants were 5-10 times less adherent than their parental strains in various cell types. The adhesion capacity of the mutants was restored by complementation with a DNA fragment encoding the Ami cell wall-anchoring domain fused to the Ami signal peptide. The cell-binding activity of the Ami cell wall-anchoring domain was further demonstrated using the purified polypeptide. Growth of the ami null mutants constructed in EGD and EGDDeltainlAB backgrounds was attenuated in the livers of mice inoculated intravenously, indicating a role for Ami in L. monocytogenes virulence. Adhesive properties have recently been reported in the non-catalytic domain of two other autolysins, Staphylococcus epidermidis AtlE and Staphylococcus saprophyticus Aas. Interestingly, we found that these domains were also composed of repeated GW modules. Thus, certain autolysins appear to promote bacterial attachment by means of their GW repeat domains. These molecules may contribute to the colonization of host tissues by Gram-positive bacteria.

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