Extracellular proteins of bacterial pathogens play a crucial role in the infection of the host. Here we present the first comprehensive validation of the secretory subproteome of the Gram positive pathogen Listeria monocytogenes using predictive bioinformatic and experimental proteomic approaches. The previous original signal peptide (SP) prediction (Glaser et al., Science 2001, 294, 849-852) has been greatly improved by an in-depth analysis using seven different bioinformatic tools. Subsequent careful classification of the resulting data gives a probability dependent annotation of 121 putatively secreted proteins of which 45 are novel. Complementary proteomic analysis using both two-dimensional gel electrophoresis/matrix assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry and high performance liquid chromatography/electrospray ionization-mass spectrometry has identified 105 proteins in the culture supernatant of L. monocytogenes. Among these, we were able to detect all the currently known virulence factors with an SP showing the importance of this subproteome and demonstrating the reliability of the techniques used. The comparison between the L. monocytogenes wildtype and the nonpathogenic species Listeria innocua was performed to reveal proteins probably involved in pathogenicity and/or the adaptation to their respective lifestyles. In addition to the eight known virulence factors, all of which have no orthologous genes in L. innocua, eight additional proteins have been identified that exhibit the typical key feature defining the known listerial virulence factors. Further significant differences between the two species are evident in the group of cell wall and secretory proteins that warrant further study. Our investigation clearly demonstrates that the major difference between the pathogenic and nonpathogenic species, noted in the comparative genome analysis, manifests itself strongest in the secretome.