Bacterial Microcompartment-Dependent 1,2-Propanediol Utilization Stimulates Anaerobic Growth of Listeria monocytogenes EGDe

Zhe Zeng, Eddy J. Smid, Sjef Boeren, Richard A. Notebaart, Tjakko Abee*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Bacterial microcompartments (BMCs) are proteinaceous organelles that optimize specific metabolic pathways referred to as metabolosomes involving transient production of toxic volatile metabolites such as aldehydes. Previous bioinformatics analysis predicted the presence of BMCs in 23 bacterial phyla including foodborne pathogens and a link with gene clusters for the utilization of host-derived substrates such as 1,2-propanediol utilization, i.e., the Pdu cluster. Although, transcriptional regulation of the Pdu cluster and its role in Listeria monocytogenes virulence in animal models have recently been reported, the experimental identification and the physiological role of BMCs in L. monocytogenes is still unexplored. Here, we ask whether BMCs could enable utilization of 1,2-propanediol (Pd) in L. monocytogenes under anaerobic conditions. Using L. monocytogenes EGDe as a model strain, we could demonstrate efficient utilization of Pd with concomitant production of 1-propanol and propionate after 24 h of anaerobic growth, while the utilization was significantly reduced in aerobic conditions. In line with this, expression of genes encoding predicted shell proteins and the signature enzyme propanediol dehydratase is upregulated more than 20-fold in cells anaerobically grown in Pdu-induced versus non-induced control conditions. Additional proteomics analysis confirmed the presence of BMC shell proteins and Pdu enzymes in cells that show active degradation of Pd. Furthermore, using transmission electron microscopy, BMC structures have been detected in these cells linking gene expression, protein composition, and BMCs to activation of the Pdu cluster in anaerobic growth of L. monocytogenes. Studies in defined minimal medium with Pd as an energy source showed a significant increase in cell numbers, indicating that Pdu and the predicted generation of ATP in the conversion of propionyl-phosphate to the end product propionate can support anaerobic growth of L. monocytogenes. Our findings may suggest a role for BMC-dependent utilization of Pd in L. monocytogenes growth, transmission, and interaction with the human host.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2660
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2019


  • 1,2-propanediol utilization cluster
  • anaerobic growth
  • food safety
  • metabolosome
  • pathogen
  • shell protein
  • virulence


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