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J Appl Microbiol. 2003;94(4):561-70.

Autolytic activity and pediocin-induced lysis in Pediococcus acidilactici and Pediococcus pentosaceus strains.

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Department of Food Science and Microbiology, University of Milano, Italy.



To evaluate the autolytic phenotype of Pediococcus acidilactici and P. pentosaceus, the peptidoglycan hydrolases content and the effect of pediocin AcH/PA-1 and autolysins on cell lysis.


The autolytic phenotype of Pediococcus strains was evaluated under starvation conditions in potassium phosphate buffer. The strains tested showed an extent of autolysis ranging between 40 and 90% after 48 h of starvation at 37 degrees C. Peptidoglycan hydrolase content was evaluated by renaturing sodium dodecyl sulphate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE) using cells of Micrococcus lysodeikticus as a target for the enzymatic activity and a major activity band migrating at about 116 kDa was detected. Additional secondary lytic bands migrating in a range of molecular weight between 45 and 110 kDa were also detected. The lytic activity, evaluated in the presence of different chemicals, was retained in 15 mM CaCl2 and in a range of pH between 5 and 9.5 but was strongly reduced in presence of 8% NaCl and in the presence of protease inhibitors. The substrate specificity of peptidoglycan hydrolases of Pediococcus strains was evaluated in renaturing SDS-PAGE incorporating cells of different bacterial species. Lytic activity was detected against cells of Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis, L. delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus, Lactobacillus helveticus and Listeria monocytogenes. The interaction between pediocin AcH/PA-1 and autolysis was evaluated and a relevant effect of bacteriocin in cell-induced lysis was observed.


The autolytic phenotype is widely distributed among P. acidilactici and P. pentosaceus and the rate of autolysis is high in the majority of the analysed strains. Several autolytic bands, detected by renaturing SDS-PAGE, retained their activity against several lactic acid bacteria and L. monocytogenes.


The characterization of the autolytic phenotype of Pediococcus acidilactici and P. pentosaceus strains should expand the knowledge of their role in fermentation processes where these species occur as primary or secondary bacterial population.

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