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Curr Opin Microbiol. 2011 Apr;14(2):118-27. doi: 10.1016/j.mib.2011.01.005. Epub 2011 Mar 8.

Regulation of Listeria virulence: PrfA master and commander.

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Microbial Pathogenesis Unit, Centres for Infectious Diseases and Immunity, Infection & Evolution, School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH9 3JT, UK.


Listeria monocytogenes is the causative agent of listeriosis, a severe foodborne infection. These bacteria live as soil saprotrophs on decaying plant matter but also as intracellular parasites, using the cell cytosol as a replication niche. PrfA, a regulatory protein, integrates a number of environmental cues that signal the transition between these two contrasting lifestyles, activating a set of key virulence factors during host infection. While a number of details concerning the general mode of action of this virulence master switch have been elucidated, others remain unsolved. Recent work has revealed additional mechanisms that contribute to L. monocytogenes virulence modulation, often via cross-talk with PrfA, or by regulating new genes involved in host colonization.

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