Applied and environmental microbiology

The transcriptional response of Listeria monocytogenes during adaptation to growth on lactate and diacetate includes synergistic changes that increase fermentative acetoin production.

PMID 21666015


The organic acids lactate and diacetate are commonly used in combination in ready-to-eat foods because they show synergistic ability to inhibit the growth of Listeria monocytogenes. Full-genome microarrays were used to investigate the synergistic transcriptomic responses of two L. monocytogenes strains, H7858 (serotype 4b) and F6854 (serotype 1/2a), to these two organic acids under conditions representing osmotic and cold stress encountered in foods. Strains were exposed to brain heart infusion (BHI) broth at 7°C with 4.65% water-phase (w.p.) NaCl at pH 6.1 with (i) 2% w.p. potassium lactate, (ii) 0.14% w.p. sodium diacetate, (iii) the combination of both at the same levels, or (iv) no organic acids as a control. RNA was extracted 8 h after exposure, during lag phase, to capture gene transcription changes during adaptation to the organic acid stress. Significant differential transcription of 1,041 genes in H7858 and 640 genes in F6854 was observed in at least one pair of the 4 different treatments. The effects of combined treatment with lactate and diacetate included (i) synergistic transcription differences for 474 and 209 genes in H7858 and F6854, respectively, (ii) differential transcription of genes encoding cation transporters and ABC transporters of metals, and (iii) altered metabolism, including induction of a nutrient-limiting stress response, reduction of menaquinone biosynthesis, and a shift from fermentative production of acetate and lactate to energetically less favorable, neutral acetoin. These data suggest that additional treatments that interfere with cellular energy generation processes could more efficiently inhibit the growth of L. monocytogenes.