Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics

First Advisor

Dr. Sarah E.F. D'Orazio


Listeria monocytogenes is a facultative intracellular bacterium that causes foodborne disease in humans. L. monocytogenes invade the gut mucosa and then disseminate, causing systemic infections associated with high mortality rates in immunocompromised individuals. It is unknown how L. monocytogenes traffic to the mesenteric lymph nodes, which represent an important bottleneck for systemic spread. In addition, little is known about the gastrointestinal stage of infection due to the general resistance of mice to oral infection with L. monocytogenes. Our laboratory developed a novel foodborne mouse model of listeriosis utilizing a murinized strain of L. monocytogenes to investigate the gastrointestinal stage of infection. First, we found that the majority of L. monocytogenes isolated from the intestinal tissue and MLN were extracellular; however, the minimal fraction of intracellular L. monocytogenes was vital for persistence in the gut and spread to the MLN. The vast majority of cell-associated L. monocytogenes in the MLN were adhered to inflammatory monocytes, but these cells did not support the intracellular growth of L. monocytogenes. A minor proportion of L. monocytogenes were associated with migratory dendritic cells in the intestinal lamina propria and MLN, but like monocytes, these cells did not appear to serve as an intracellular growth niche for L. monocytogenes. Lastly, extracellular L. monocytogenes were observed migrating in mesenteric lymphatic vessels that drain from the intestine to the MLN, suggesting that L. monocytogenes can spread beyond the intestinal mucosa independent of migratory immune cells. Overall, these studies are the first to characterize the interaction of L. monocytogenes with immune cells in the intestine and MLN following foodborne infection and suggest that extracellular, and not cytosolic L. monocytogenes, primarily drive innate immune responses in the gut.

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