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Curr Opin Chem Biol. 2000 Jun;4(3):310-7.

Lantibiotics and microcins: polypeptides with unusual chemical diversity.

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Institut für Organische Chemie, der Universität Tübingen, EMC microcollections GmbH, Tübingen, 72076, 72070, Germany.


Bacterial-derived antimicrobial polypeptides enjoy a large degree of structural and chemical diversity. Two well-studied examples of such polypeptides are the lanthionine-containing lantibiotics produced by a variety of Gram-positive bacteria, and their Gram-negative counterparts, the microcins. Both groups are produced as gene-encoded precursor peptides and undergo post-translational modification to generate the active moieties. Structure elucidation of novel lantibiotics and microcins has recently uncovered further novel structural and chemical features and, combined with the generation of analogue peptides by genetic manipulation, new insights into structure-function relationships have been gained. Furthermore, study of the mode of action of the lantibiotics nisin and mersacidin has revealed their use of a 'docking molecule' in the target cell to facilitate their biological activities. Meanwhile, in vitro studies with microcin B17 have helped to uncover the molecular mechanisms by which post-translational modification results in the formation of heterocyclic oxazole and thiazole rings. From a practical standpoint, both groups of polypeptides represent new lead structures for future development of antimicrobial agents, whilst the identification of the 'docking molecules' represents a step forward in the search for novel targets for future antibiosis.

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