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Mol Microbiol. 2003 Sep;49(5):1361-75.

Ena/VASP proteins contribute to Listeria monocytogenes pathogenesis by controlling temporal and spatial persistence of bacterial actin-based motility.

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Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA.


The Listeria monocytogenes surface protein ActA mediates actin-based motility by interacting with a number of host cytoskeletal components, including Ena/VASP family proteins, which in turn interact with actin and the actin-binding protein profilin. We employed a bidirectional genetic approach to study Ena/VASP's contribution to L. monocytogenes movement and pathogenesis. We generated an ActA allelic series within the defined Ena/VASP-binding sites and introduced the resulting mutant L. monocytogenes into cell lines expressing different Ena/VASP derivatives. Our findings indicate that Ena/VASP proteins contribute to the persistence of both speed and directionality of L. monocytogenes movement. In the absence of the Ena/VASP proline-rich central domain, speed consistency decreased by sixfold. In addition, the Ena/VASP F-actin-binding region increased directionality of bacterial movement by fourfold. We further show that both regions of Ena/VASP enhanced L. monocytogenes cell-to-cell spread to a similar degree, although the Ena/VASP F-actin-binding region did so in an ActA-independent manner. Surprisingly, our ActA allelic series enabled us to uncouple L. monocytogenes speed from directionality although both were controlled by Ena/VASP proteins. Lastly, we showed the pathogenic relevance of these findings by the observation that L. monocytogenes lacking ActA Ena/VASP-binding sites were up to 400-fold less virulent during an adaptive immune response.

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