Genes involved in Listeria monocytogenes biofilm formation at a simulated food processing plant temperature of 15 °C

Marta J. Piercey, Patricia A. Hingston, Lisbeth Truelstrup Hansen

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Listeria monocytogenes is a pathogenic foodborne bacterium whose persistence in food processing environments is in part attributed to its biofilm formation. Most biofilm studies have been carried out at 30–37 °C rather than at temperatures found in the food processing plants (i.e., 10–20 °C). The objective of the present study was to mine for novel genes that contribute to L. monocytogenes biofilm formation at 15 °C using the random insertional mutagenesisapproach. A library of 11,024 L. monocytogenes 568 (serotype 1/2a) Himar1 insertional mutants wascreated. Mutants with reduced or enhanced biofilm formation at 15 °C were detected in microtiter plate assays with crystal violet and safran in staining. Fourteen mutants expressed enhanced biofilm phenotypes, and harbored transposon insertions in genes encoding cell wall biosynthesis, motility, metabolism, stress response,and cell surface associated proteins. Deficient mutants (n=5) contained interruptions in genes related to peptidoglycan,teichoic acid, or lipoproteins. Enhanced mutants produced significantly (p b 0.05) higher cell densities in biofilm formed on stainless steel (SS) coupons at 15 °C (48 h) than deficient mutants, which were also more sensitive to benzalkonium chloride. All biofilm deficient mutants and four enhanced mutants in the microtiter plate assay (flaA, cheR, lmo2563 and lmo2488) formed no biofilm in a peg lid assay (Calgary biofilm device) while insertions in lmo1224 and lmo0543 led to excess biofilm in all assays. Two enhanced biofilm formers were more resistant to enzymatic removal with DNase, proteinase K or pectinase than the parent strain. Scanning electron microscopy of individual biofilms made by five mutants and the parent on SS surfaces showed formation of heterogeneous biofilm with dense zones by immotile mutants, while deficient mutants exhibited sparse growth. In conclusion, interruptions of 9 genes not previously linked to biofilm formation in L. monocytogenes (lmo2572, lmo2488 (uvrA), lmo1224, lmo0434 (inlB), lmo0263 (inlH), lmo0543, lmo0057 (EsaA), lmo2563,lmo0453), caused enhanced biofilm formation in the bacterium at 15 °C. The remaining mutants harbored interruptions in 10 genetic loci previously associated with biofilm formation at higher temperatures, indicating some temperature driven differences in the formation of biofilm by L. monocytogenes. © 2016 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Food Microbiology
Pages (from-to)63–74
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Listeria monocytogenes
  • Biofilm
  • Persistence
  • Transposon mutagenesis
  • Benzalkonium chloride
  • DNase
  • Proteinase K
  • Pectinase


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