The surface protein internalin A (InlA) contributes to the invasion of human intestinal epithelial cells by Listeria monocytogenes. Screening of L. monocytogenes strains isolated from human clinical cases (n=46), foods (n=118), and healthy animals (n=58) in the United States revealed mutations in inlA leading to premature stop codons (PMSCs) in L. monocytogenes ribotypes DUP-1052A and DUP-16635A (PMSC mutation type 1), DUP-1025A and DUP-1031A (PMSC mutation type 2), and DUP-1046B and DUP-1062A (PMSC mutation type 3). While all DUP-1046B, DUP-1062A, DUP-16635A, and DUP-1031A isolates (n=76) contained inlA PMSCs, ribotypes DUP-1052A and DUP-1025A (n=72) contained isolates with and without inlA PMSCs. Western immunoblotting showed that all three inlA PMSCs result in the production of truncated and secreted InlA. Searches of the Pathogen Tracker database, which contains subtype and source information for more than 5,000 L. monocytogenes isolates, revealed that the six ribotypes shown to contain isolates with inlA PMSCs were overall more commonly isolated from foods than from human listeriosis cases. L. monocytogenes strains carrying inlA PMSCs also showed significantly (P=0.0004) reduced invasion of Caco-2 cells compared to isolates with homologous 3' inlA sequences without PMSCs. Invasion assays with an isogenic PMSC mutant further supported the observation that inlA PMSCs lead to reduced invasion of Caco-2 cells. Our data show that specific L. monocytogenes subtypes which are common among U.S. food isolates but rare among human listeriosis isolates carry inlA mutations that are associated with, and possibly at least partially responsible for, an attenuated invasion phenotype.



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