Listeria monocytogenes is a Gram-positive intracellular pathogen that is responsible for listeriosis, a potentially fatal, food-borne illness. Due to its cytoplasmic location during infection, this pathogen can mediate a long-lasting cellular immune response, which makes attenuated strains strong candidates for vaccine development. Recently, our group identified and characterized frvA (Fur-regulated virulence factor A), and deletion of this gene resulted in disruption of iron homeostasis and a strong attenuation in virulence. Despite significant attenuation in the mouse infection model, the frvA mutant was capable of intracellular growth in antigen-presenting cells. Indeed, mice immunized with L. monocytogenes ΔfrvA were able to effectively stimulate specific CD8(+) T cells to the listerial epitopes LLO(91-99) and P60(217-225) at levels comparable with L. monocytogenes strain EGDe. Most notably, mice immunized with ΔfrvA then subsequently challenged with the wild-type strain were completely protected from listerial infection. On the basis of these results, we advocate the use of ΔfrvA as a live attenuated listerial vaccine, and propose that this mutant may serve as a platform for the development of a future vaccine delivery vehicle.
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