Genomic Differences between Listeria monocytogenes EGDe Isolates Reveal Crucial Roles for SigB and Wall Rhamnosylation in Biofilm Formation

Chih-Yu Hsu, Lynne Cairns, Laura Hobley, James Abbott, Conor O'Byrne, Nicola R. Stanley-Wall (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
52 Downloads (Pure)


Listeria monocytogenes is a Gram-positive firmicute that causes foodborne infections, in part due to its ability to use multiple strategies, including biofilm formation, to survive adverse growth conditions. As a potential way to screen for genes required for biofilm formation, we harnessed the ability of bacteria to accumulate mutations in the genome over time, diverging the properties of seemingly identical strains. By sequencing the genomes of four laboratory reference strains of the commonly used L. monocytogenes EGDe, we showed that each isolate contains single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) compared with the reference genome. We discovered that two SNPs, contained in two independent genes within one of the isolates, impacted biofilm formation. Using bacterial genetics and phenotypic assays, we confirmed that rsbU and rmlA influence biofilm formation. RsbU is the upstream regulator of the alternative sigma factor SigB, and mutation of either rsbU or sigB increased biofilm formation. In contrast, deletion of rmlA, which encodes the first enzyme for TDP-l-rhamnose biosynthesis, resulted in a reduction in the amount of biofilm formed. Further analysis of biofilm formation in a strain that still produces TDP-l-rhamnose but which cannot decorate the wall teichoic acid with rhamnose (rmlT mutant) showed that it is the decorated wall teichoic acid that is required for adhesion of the cells to surfaces. Together, these data uncover novel routes by which biofilm formation by L. monocytogenes can be impacted.IMPORTANCE Biofilms are an important mode of growth in many settings. Here, we looked at small differences in the genomes of the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes isolate EGDe and used them to find out how biofilms form. This important fundamental information may help new treatments to be developed and also highlights the fact that isolates of the same identity often diverge.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00692-19
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Bacteriology
Issue number7
Early online date21 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - 11 Mar 2020


  • Listeria monocytogenes
  • biofilm formation
  • biofilms
  • cell wall teichoic acid
  • genome analysis
  • rhamnose
  • sigma B

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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