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J Infect Dis. 2005 Jun 1;191(11):1889-97. Epub 2005 Apr 26.

Growth of Listeria monocytogenes in the guinea pig placenta and role of cell-to-cell spread in fetal infection.

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Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720-3202, USA.


Listeria monocytogenes causes foodborne outbreaks that lead to infection in human and other mammalian fetuses. To elucidate the molecular and cellular mechanisms involved in transplacental transmission, we characterized placental-fetal infection in pregnant guinea pigs inoculated with wild-type (wt) or mutant L. monocytogenes strains. The wt strain increased in number in the placenta by >1000-fold during the first 24 h after inoculation--an increase that was unparalleled in other maternal organs. The ActA- mutant, which is impaired in cell-to-cell spread and attenuated in maternal organs, increased in the placenta by a similar amount, although, in fetal infection, the number of ActA- mutant bacteria was 100-fold lower, compared with that of the wt strain. Furthermore, a mutant impaired in vacuolar escape was rapidly eliminated from maternal organs but persisted in the placenta. We concluded that cell-to-cell spread facilitates maternal-to-fetal transmission. Furthermore, the placenta provides a protective niche for growth of L. monocytogenes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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