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J Bacteriol. 2010 Aug;192(15):3969-76. doi: 10.1128/JB.00179-10. Epub 2010 May 28.

The virulence regulator PrfA promotes biofilm formation by Listeria monocytogenes.

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Division of Infectious Diseases, Children's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


Listeria monocytogenes is a food-borne facultative intracellular pathogen. It is widespread in the environment and has several distinct life-styles. The key transcriptional activator PrfA positively regulates L. monocytogenes virulence genes to mediate the transition from extracellular, flagellum-propelled cell to intracellular pathogen. Here we report the first evidence that PrfA also has a significant positive impact on extracellular biofilm formation. Mutants lacking prfA were defective in surface-adhered biofilm formation. The DeltaprfA mutant exhibited wild-type flagellar motility, and its biofilm defect occurred after initial surface adhesion. We also observed that mutations that led to the constitutive expression of PrfA-dependent virulence genes had a minimal impact on biofilm formation. Furthermore, biofilm development was enhanced in a mutant encoding a PrfA protein variant unable to fully transition from the extracellular form to the virulent, intracellular activity conformation. These results indicate that PrfA positively regulates biofilm formation and suggest that PrfA has a global role in modulating the life-style of L. monocytogenes. The requirement of PrfA for optimal biofilm formation may provide selective pressure to maintain this critical virulence regulator when L. monocytogenes is outside host cells in the environment.

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