Apoptotic cells enhance pathogenesis of Listeria monocytogenes

Goutham Pattabiraman, Karol Palasiewicz, Lavanya Visvabharathy, Nancy E. Freitag, David S. Ucker*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Infections by pathogenic microorganisms elicit host immune responses, which crucially limit those infections. Pathogens employ various strategies to evade host immunity. We have identified the exploitation of the repertoire of potent immunosuppressive responses elicited normally by apoptotic cells (“Innate Apoptotic Immunity”; IAI) as one of these strategies. In the case of Listeria monocytogenes, an environmentally ubiquitous, foodborne bacterial pathogen capable of causing life-threatening invasive disease in immunocompromised and elderly individuals, the induction of host cell apoptosis appears to play an important role in pathogenesis. Previous studies have documented extensive lymphocyte apoptosis resulting from L. monocytogenes infection and demonstrated paradoxically that lymphocyte-deficient animals exhibit diminished susceptibility to listerial pathogenicity. We speculated that the triggering of IAI following the induction of host cell apoptosis was responsible for enhanced pathogenesis, and that the administration of exogenous apoptotic cells would serve to exert this effect. Importantly, apoptotic cells, which are not susceptible to L. monocytogenes infection, do not provide a niche for bacterial replication. Our experiments confirm that apoptotic cells, including exogenous apoptotic cells induced to die independently of the pathogen, specifically enhance pathogenesis. The recognition of a role of apoptotic cells and Innate Apoptotic Immunity in microbial pathogenesis provides an intriguing and novel insight for therapeutic approaches for the control of pathogenic infections.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)218-225
Number of pages8
JournalMicrobial Pathogenesis
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017


  • Apoptosis
  • Immune suppression
  • Inflammation
  • Innate immunity
  • Pathogenesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Infectious Diseases


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