Glycerol metabolism induces Listeria monocytogenes biofilm formation at the air-liquid interface

Natalia Crespo Tapia, Heidy M.W. den Besten, Tjakko Abee*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Listeria monocytogenes is a food-borne pathogen that can grow as a biofilm on surfaces. Biofilm formation in food-processing environments is a big concern for food safety, as it can cause product contamination through the food-processing line. Although motile aerobic bacteria have been described to form biofilms at the air-liquid interface of cell cultures, to our knowledge, this type of biofilm has not been described in L. monocytogenes before. In this study we report L. monocytogenes biofilm formation at the air-liquid interface of aerobically grown cultures, and that this phenotype is specifically induced when the media is supplemented with glycerol as a carbon and energy source. Planktonic growth, metabolic activity assays and HPLC measurements of glycerol consumption over time showed that glycerol utilization in L. monocytogenes is restricted to growth under aerobic conditions. Gene expression analysis showed that genes encoding the glycerol transporter GlpF, the glycerol kinase GlpK and the glycerol 3-phosphate dehydrogenase GlpD were upregulated in the presence of oxygen, and downregulated in absence of oxygen. Additionally, motility assays revealed the induction of aerotaxis in the presence of glycerol. Our results demonstrate that the formation of biofilms at the air-liquid interface is dependent on glycerol-induced aerotaxis towards the surface of the culture, where L. monocytogenes has access to higher concentrations of oxygen, and is therefore able to utilize this compound as a carbon source.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20-27
JournalInternational Journal of Food Microbiology
Publication statusPublished - 20 May 2018


  • Aerotaxis
  • Biofilm
  • Glycerol
  • Listeria monocytogenes
  • Metabolism


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