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J Biol Chem. 2003 Jan 3;278(1):89-94. Epub 2002 Oct 11.

Function of Lactococcus lactis nisin immunity genes nisI and nisFEG after coordinated expression in the surrogate host Bacillus subtilis.

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  • 1Institut für Mikrobiologie, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität, D-60439 Frankfurt am Main, Germany.


Nisin-producing Lactococcus lactis strains show a high degree of resistance to the action of nisin, which is based upon expression of the self-protection (immunity) genes nisI, nisF, nisE, and nisG. Different combinations of nisin immunity genes were integrated into the chromosome of a nisin-sensitive Bacillus subtilis host strain under the control of an inducible promoter. For the recipient strain, the highest level of acquired nisin tolerance was achieved after coordinated expression of all four nisin immunity genes. But either the lipoprotein NisI or the ABC transporter-homologous system NisFEG, respectively, were also able to protect the Bacillus host cells. The acquired immunity was specific to nisin and provided no tolerance to subtilin, a closely related lantibiotic. Quantitative in vivo peptide release assays demonstrated that NisFEG diminished the quantity of cell-associated nisin, providing evidence that one role of NisFEG is to transport nisin from the membrane into the extracellular space. NisI solubilized from B. subtilis membrane vesicles and recombinant hexahistidine-tagged NisI from Escherichia coli interacted specifically with nisin and not with subtilin. This suggests a function of NisI as a nisin-intercepting protein.

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