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Nat Prod Rep. 2007 Aug;24(4):708-34. Epub 2007 Apr 18.

Microcins, gene-encoded antibacterial peptides from enterobacteria.

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Laboratory of Chemistry and Biochemistry of Natural Substances, UMR 5154 CNRS, Department of Regulations, Development and Molecular Diversity, National Museum of Natural History, CP 54, 57 rue Cuvier, 75005, Paris, France.


Microcins are gene-encoded antibacterial peptides, with molecular masses below 10 kDa, produced by enterobacteria. They are secreted under conditions of nutrient depletion and exert potent antibacterial activity against closely related species. Typical gene clusters encoding the microcin precursor, the self-immunity factor, the secretion proteins and frequently the post-translational modification enzymes are located either on plasmids or on the chromosome. In contrast to most of the antibiotics of microbial origin, which are non-ribosomally synthesized by multimodular enzymes termed peptide synthetases, microcins are ribosomally synthesized as precursors, which are further modified enzymatically. They form a restricted class of potent antibacterial peptides. Fourteen microcins have been reported so far, among which only seven have been isolated and characterized. Despite the low number of known representatives, microcins exhibit a diversity of structures and antibacterial mechanisms. This review provides an updated overview of microcin structures, antibacterial activities, genetic systems and biosyntheses, as well as of their mechanisms of action.

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