The most severe human listeriosis outbreaks are caused by L. monocytogenes strains harboring listeriolysin S (LLS), previously described as a cytotoxin that plays a critical role in host inner tissue infection. Cytotoxic activities have been proposed as a general mode of action for streptolysin S (SLS)-like toxins, including clostridiolysin S and LLS. We now challenge this dogma by demonstrating that LLS does not contribute to virulence in vivo once the intestinal barrier has been crossed. Importantly, we show that intravenous L. monocytogenes inoculation leads to bacterial translocation to the gastrointestinal system, where LLS is specifically expressed, targeting the host gut microbiota. Our study highlights the heterogeneous modes of action of SLS-like toxins, and we demonstrate for the first time a further level of complexity for SLS-like biosynthetic clusters as we reveal that the putative posttranslational modification enzyme LlsB is actually required for inner organ colonization, independently of the LLS activity.
Immunofluorescence and segmentation analysis of HeLa cells infected with Listeria monocytogenes. Cells were labelled with DAPI to mark DNA (blue), with phalloidin to mark actin (red) and with anti-Internalin C antibodies to identify infected cells (yellow). Nuclei and cytoplasms were segmented using the public image analysis software CellProfiler