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Nat Struct Mol Biol. 2004 Oct;11(10):963-7. Epub 2004 Sep 12.

The nisin-lipid II complex reveals a pyrophosphate cage that provides a blueprint for novel antibiotics.

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Department of NMR Spectroscopy, Bijvoet Center for Biomolecular Research, Utrecht University, Padualaan 8, 3584CH Utrecht, The Netherlands.


The emerging antibiotics-resistance problem has underlined the urgent need for novel antimicrobial agents. Lantibiotics (lanthionine-containing antibiotics) are promising candidates to alleviate this problem. Nisin, a member of this family, has a unique pore-forming activity against bacteria. It binds to lipid II, the essential precursor of cell wall synthesis. As a result, the membrane permeabilization activity of nisin is increased by three orders of magnitude. Here we report the solution structure of the complex of nisin and lipid II. The structure shows a novel lipid II-binding motif in which the pyrophosphate moiety of lipid II is primarily coordinated by the N-terminal backbone amides of nisin via intermolecular hydrogen bonds. This cage structure provides a rationale for the conservation of the lanthionine rings among several lipid II-binding lantibiotics. The structure of the pyrophosphate cage offers a template for structure-based design of novel antibiotics.

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