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Front Microbiol. 2015 May 7;6:441. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2015.00441. eCollection 2015.

Common occurrence of antibacterial agents in human intestinal microbiota.

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Unité de Recherche sur les Maladies Infectieuses et Tropicales Emergentes, UM 63, CNRS 7278, IRD 198, Inserm 1095, Faculté de Médecine, Aix Marseille Université Marseille, France.


Laboratory experiments have revealed many active mechanisms by which bacteria can inhibit the growth of other organisms. Bacteriocins are a diverse group of natural ribosomally synthesized antimicrobial peptides produced by a wide range of bacteria and which seem to play an important role in mediating competition within bacterial communities. In this study, we have identified and established the structural classification of putative bacteriocins encoded by 317 microbial genomes in the human intestine. On the basis of homologies to available bacteriocin sequences, mainly from lactic acid bacteria, we report the widespread occurrence of bacteriocins across the gut microbiota: 175 bacteriocins were found to be encoded in Firmicutes, 79 in Proteobacteria, 34 in Bacteroidetes, and 25 in Actinobacteria. Bacteriocins from gut bacteria displayed wide differences among phyla with regard to class distribution, net positive charge, hydrophobicity and secondary structure, but the α-helix was the most abundant structure. The peptide structures and physiochemical properties of bacteriocins produced by the most abundant bacteria in the gut, the Firmicutes and the Bacteroidetes, seem to ensure low antibiotic activity and participate in permanent intestinal host defense against the proliferation of harmful bacteria. Meanwhile, the potentially harmful bacteria, including the Proteobacteria, displayed highly effective bacteriocins, probably supporting the virulent character of diseases. These findings highlight the eventual role played by bacteriocins in gut microbial competition and their potential place in antibiotic therapy.


BUR database; antimicrobial peptides; bacteriocin; gastrointestinal tract; microbiota

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