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Mol Microbiol. 2008 Jul;69(1):218-30. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2008.06279.x. Epub 2008 May 9.

The generation of nisin variants with enhanced activity against specific gram-positive pathogens.

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Department of Microbiology and University College Cork, Cork, Ireland.


Nisin is the prototype of the lantibiotic group of antimicrobial peptides. It exhibits broad spectrum inhibition of gram-positive bacteria including important food pathogens and clinically relevant antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Significantly, the gene-encoded nature of nisin means that it can be subjected to gene-based bioengineering to generate novel derivatives. Here, we take advantage of this to generate the largest bank of randomly mutated nisin derivatives reported to date, with the ultimate aim of identifying variants with enhanced bioactivity. This approach led to the identification of a nisin-producing strain with enhanced bioactivity against the mastitic pathogen Streptococcus agalactiae resulting from an amino acid change in the hinge region of the peptide (K22T). Prompted by this discovery, site-directed and site-saturation mutagenesis of the hinge region residues was employed, resulting in the identification of additional derivatives, most notably N20P, M21V and K22S, with enhanced bioactivity and specific activity against gram-positive pathogens including Listeria monocytogenes and/or Staphylococcus aureus. The identification of these derivatives represents a major step forward in the bioengineering of nisin, and lantibiotics in general, and confirms that peptide engineering can deliver derivatives with enhanced antimicrobial activity against specific problematic spoilage and pathogenic microbes or against gram-positive bacteria in general.

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