Listeria monocytogenes and the Inflammasome: From Cytosolic Bacteriolysis to Tumor Immunotherapy

  • Erin Theisen
  • John-Demian Sauer
Part of the Current Topics in Microbiology and Immunology book series (CT MICROBIOLOGY, volume 397)


Inflammasomes are cytosolic innate immune surveillance systems that recognize a variety of danger signals, including those from pathogens. Listeria monocytogenes is a Gram-positive intracellular bacterium evolved to live within the harsh environment of the host cytosol. Further, L. monocytogenes can activate a robust cell-mediated immune response that is being harnessed as an immunotherapeutic platform. Access to the cytosol is critical for both causing disease and inducing a protective immune response, and it is hypothesized that the cytosolic innate immune system, including the inflammasome, is critical for both host protection and induction of long-term immunity. L. monocytogenes can activate a variety of inflammasomes via its pore-forming toxin listeriolysin-O, flagellin, or DNA released through bacteriolysis; however, inflammasome activation attenuates L. monocytogenes, and as such, L. monocytogenes has evolved a variety of ways to limit inflammasome activation. Surprisingly, inflammasome activation also impairs the host cell-mediated immune response. Thus, understanding how L. monocytogenes activates or avoids detection by the inflammasome is critical to understand the pathogenesis of L. monocytogenes and improve the cell-mediated immune response generated to L. monocytogenes for more effective immunotherapies.


Listeria monocytogenes Inflammasome AIM2 Immunotherapy Adaptive immunity Innate immunity macrophage 



The authors would like to thank Dr. Laurie Ristow and Grischa Chen for critical reading of this manuscript. The authors would also like to thank other members of the Sauer laboratory for commentary on the figures. This work is funded by the NIH (R01 CA188034) to J-D.S., and an AAI Careers in Immunology Fellowship to E.T.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, School of Medicine and Public HealthUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA

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