Listeria monocytogenes exploits host caveolin for cell-to-cell spreading

Aaron S. Dhanda, Connie Yu, Katarina T. Lulic, A. Wayne Vogl, Valentina Rausch, Diana Yang, Benjamin J. Nichols, Sung Hyun Kim, Simona Polo, Carsten G. Hansen, Julian A. Guttman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Listeria monocytogenes moves from one cell to another using actin-rich membrane protrusions that propel the bacterium toward neighboring cells. Despite cholesterol being required for this transfer process, the precise host internalization mechanism remains elusive. Here, we show that caveolin endocytosis is key to this event as bacterial cell-to-cell transfer is severely impaired when cells are depleted of caveolin-1. Only a subset of additional caveolar components (cavin-2 and EHD2) are present at sites of bacterial transfer, and although clathrin and the clathrin-associated proteins Eps15 and AP2 are absent from the bacterial invaginations, efficient L. monocytogenes spreading requires the clathrin-interacting protein epsin-1. We also directly demonstrated that isolated L. monocytogenes membrane protrusions can trigger the recruitment of caveolar proteins in a neighboring cell. The engulfment of these bacterial and cytoskeletal structures through a caveolin-based mechanism demonstrates that the classical nanometer-scale theoretical size limit for this internalization pathway is exceeded by these bacterial pathogens. IMPORTANCE Listeria monocytogenes moves from one cell to another as it disseminates within tissues. This bacterial transfer process depends on the host actin cytoskeleton as the bacterium forms motile actin-rich membranous protrusions that propel the bacteria into neighboring cells, thus forming corresponding membrane invaginations. Here, we examine these membrane invaginations and demonstrate that caveolin-1–based endocytosis is crucial for efficient bacterial cell-to-cell spreading. We show that only a subset of caveolin-associated proteins (cavin-2 and EHD2) are involved in this process. Despite the absence of clathrin at the invaginations, the classical clathrin-associated protein epsin-1 is also required for efficient bacterial spreading. Using isolated L. monocytogenes protrusions added onto naive host cells, we demonstrate that actin-based propulsion is dispensable for caveolin-1 endocytosis as the presence of the protrusion/invagi-nation interaction alone triggers caveolin-1 recruitment in the recipient cells. Finally, we provide a model of how this caveolin-1–based internalization event can exceed the theoretical size limit for this endocytic pathway.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere02857-19
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020


  • Actin
  • Actin-based motility
  • Cell-to-cell spreading
  • Endocytosis
  • Epsin-1
  • Invaginations
  • Listeria monocytogenes
  • Membrane protrusion


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