Neurotropic lineage III strains of Listeria monocytogenes disseminate to the brain without reaching high titer in the blood

Taylor E. Senay, Jessica L. Ferrell, Filip G. Garrett, Taylor M. Albrecht, Jooyoung Cho, Katie L. Alexander, Tanya Myers-Morales, Olivia F. Grothaus, Sarah E.F. D'Orazio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Listeria monocytogenes is thought to colonize the brain using one of three mechanisms: direct invasion of the blood-brain barrier, transportation across the barrier by infected monocytes, and axonal migration to the brain stem. The first two pathways seem to occur following unrestricted bacterial growth in the blood and thus have been linked to immunocompromise. In contrast, cell-to-cell spread within nerves is thought to be mediated by a particular subset of neurotropic L. monocytogenes strains. In this study, we used a mouse model of foodborne transmission to evaluate the neurotropism of several L. monocytogenes isolates. Two strains preferentially colonized the brain stems of BALB/cByJ mice 5 days postinfection and were not detectable in blood at that time point. In contrast, infection with other strains resulted in robust systemic infection of the viscera but no dissemination to the brain. Both neurotropic strains (L2010-2198, a human rhombencephalitis isolate, and UKVDL9, a sheep brain isolate) typed as phylogenetic lineage III, the least characterized group of L. monocytogenes. Neither of these strains encodes InlF, an internalin-like protein that was recently shown to promote invasion of the blood-brain barrier. Acute neurologic deficits were observed in mice infected with the neurotropic strains, and milder symptoms persisted for up to 16 days in some animals. These results demonstrate that neurotropic L. monocytogenes strains are not restricted to any one particular lineage and suggest that the foodborne mouse model of listeriosis can be used to investigate the pathogenic mechanisms that allow L. monocytogenes to invade the brain stem.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00871
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Senay et al.


  • Foodborne infection
  • Listeria monocytogenes
  • Mouse models

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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