Effects of above-optimum growth temperature and cell morphology on thermotolerance of listeria monocytogenes cells suspended in bovine milk

Neil J. Rowan, John G. Anderson

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58 Citations (Scopus)


The thermotolerances of two different cell forms of Listeria monocytogenes (serotype 4b) grown at 37 and 42.8°C in commercially pasteurized and laboratory-tyndallized whole milk (WM) were investigated. Test strains, after growth at 37 or 42.8°C, were suspended in WM at concentrations of approximately 1.5 x 108 to 3.0 x 108 cells/ml and were then heated at 56, 60, and 63°C for various exposure times. Survival was determined by enumeration on tryptone-soya-yeast extract agar and Listeria selective agar, and D values (decimal reduction times) and Z values (numbers of degrees Celsius required to cause a 10-fold change in the D value) were calculated. Higher average recovery and higher D values (i.e., seen as a 2.5- to 3-fold increase in thermotolerance) were obtained when cells were grown at 42.8°C prior to heat treatment. A relationship was observed between thermotolerance and cell morphology of L. monocytogenes. Atypical Listeria cell types (consisting predominantly of long cell chains measuring up to 60 μm in length) associated with rough (R) culture variants were shown to be 1.2-fold more thermotolerant than the typical dispersed cell form associated with normal smooth (S) cultures (P ≤ 0.001). The thermal death-time (TDT) curves of R-cell forms contained a tail section in addition to the shoulder section characteristic of TDT curves of normal single to paired cells (i.e., S form). The factors shown to influence the thermoresistance of suspended Listeria cells (P ≤ 0.001) were as follows: growth and heating temperatures, type of plating medium, recovery method, and cell morphology. Regression analysis of nonlinear data can underestimate survival of L. monocytogenes; the end point recovery method was shown to be a better method for determining thermotolerance because it takes both shoulders and tails into consideration. Despite their enhanced heat resistance, atypical R-cell forms of L. monocytogenes were unable to survive the low-temperature, long-time pasteurization process when freely suspended and heated in WM.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2065-2071
Number of pages7
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 1998


  • listeria monocytogenes
  • thermotolerance
  • milk


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