Galleria mellonella as a model system for studying Listeria pathogenesis

Krishnendu Mukherjee, Boran Altincicek, Torsten Hain, Eugen Domann, Andreas Vilcinskas, Trinad Chakraborty
Applied and Environmental Microbiology 2010, 76 (1): 310-7
Essential aspects of the innate immune response to microbial infection are conserved between insects and mammals. This has generated interest in using insects as model organisms to study host-microbe interactions. We used the greater wax moth Galleria mellonella, which can be reared at 37 degrees C, as a model host for examining the virulence potential of Listeria spp. Here we report that Galleria is an excellent surrogate model of listerial septic infection, capable of clearly distinguishing between pathogenic and nonpathogenic Listeria strains and even between virulent and attenuated Listeria monocytogenes strains. Virulence required listerial genes hitherto implicated in the mouse infection model and was linked to strong antimicrobial activities in both hemolymph and hemocytes of infected larvae. Following Listeria infection, the expression of immune defense genes such as those for lysozyme, galiomycin, gallerimycin, and insect metalloproteinase inhibitor (IMPI) was sequentially induced. Preinduction of antimicrobial activity by treatment of larvae with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) significantly improved survival against subsequent L. monocytogenes challenge and strong antilisterial activity was detected in the hemolymph of LPS pretreated larvae. We conclude that the severity of septic infection with L. monocytogenes is modulated primarily by innate immune responses, and we suggest the use of Galleria as a relatively simple, nonmammalian model system that can be used to assess the virulence of strains of Listeria spp. isolated from a wide variety of settings from both the clinic and the environment.

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