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1.  Bioengineering of a Nisin A‐producing Lactococcus lactis to create isogenic strains producing the natural variants Nisin F, Q and Z 
Microbial Biotechnology  2011;4(3):375-382.
Nisin is the prototypical example of the lantibiotic family of antimicrobial peptides and has been employed as a food preservative for over half a century. It has also attracted attention due to its potency against a number of multidrug‐resistant clinical pathogens. Nisin A is the originally isolated form of Nisin and a further five natural variants have been described which differ by up to 10 amino acids (of 34 in total in Nisin A). Nisins A, Z, F and Q are produced by Lactococcus lactis, while Nisins U and U2 are produced by Streptococcus sp. In this study we bioengineered the nisA gene of a Nisin A producer to generate genes encoding Nisins Z, F, Q, U and U2. We determined that while active Nisin Z, F and Q can be produced against this genetic background, active forms of Nisin U and U2 are not generated. Minimum inhibitory concentration studies with Nisin A, Z, F and Q variants against a series of different clinically significant pathogens establish differences in specific activities against selected targets. Nisin F was most impressive, being the most active, or one of the most active, against the MRSA strain ST 525, EC 676, EC 725, VISA 22900, VISA 22781, hVISA 35197, Staphylococcus aureus 8325‐4 and L. lactis HP. Nisin Z was most active against ST 299, hVISA 32683 and, together with Nisin F, HP but had contrastingly poor activity against ST 525, EC 676 and 8325‐4. Nisin F, Q and A exhibited similar potency against VISA 22900. This was the only target against which Nisin Q and Nisin A were among the most active variants.
PMCID: PMC3818996  PMID: 21375711
2.  Studies with bioengineered Nisin peptides highlight the broad‐spectrum potency of Nisin V 
Microbial biotechnology  2010;3(4):473-486.
Nisin A is the most thoroughly investigated member of the lantibiotic family of antimicrobial peptides. In addition to a long history of safe use as a food antimicrobial, its activity against multi‐drug resistant pathogens has resulted in a renewed interest in applying nisin as a chemotherapeutic to treat bacterial infections. The wealth of Nisin‐related information that has been generated has also led to the development of the biotechnological capacity to engineer novel Nisin variants with a view to improving the function and physicochemical properties of this already potent peptide. However, the identification of bioengineered Nisin derivatives with enhanced antimicrobial activity against Gram‐positive targets is a recent event. In this study, we created stable producers of the most promising derivatives of Nisin A generated to date [M21V (hereafter Nisin V) and K22T (hereafter Nisin T)] and assessed their potency against a range of drug‐resistant clinical, veterinary and food pathogens. Nisin T exhibited increased activity against all veterinary isolates, including streptococci and staphylococci, and against a number of multi‐drug resistant clinical isolates including MRSA, but not vancomycin‐resistant enterococci. In contrast, Nisin V displayed increased potency against all targets tested including hVISA strains and the hyper‐virulent Clostridium difficile ribotype 027 and against important food pathogens such as Listeria monocytogenes and Bacillus cereus. Significantly, this enhanced activity was validated in a model food system against L. monocytogenes. We conclude that Nisin V possesses significant potential as a novel preservative or chemotherapeutic compound.
PMCID: PMC3815813  PMID: 21255345
3.  Mechanism of Inhibition of Bacillus anthracis Spore Outgrowth by the Lantibiotic Nisin 
ACS Chemical Biology  2011;6(7):744-752.
The lantibiotic nisin inhibits growth of vegetative Gram-positive bacteria by binding to lipid II, which disrupts cell wall biosynthesis and facilitates pore formation. Nisin also inhibits the outgrowth of bacterial spores, including spores of Bacillus anthracis, whose structural and biochemical properties are fundamentally different from those of vegetative bacteria. The molecular basis of nisin inhibition of spore outgrowth had not been identified, as previous studies suggested that inhibition of spore outgrowth involved either covalent binding to a spore target or loss of membrane integrity; disruption of cell wall biosynthesis via binding to lipid II had not been investigated. To provide insights into the latter possibility, the effects of nisin were compared with those of vancomycin, another lipid II binding antibiotic that inhibits cell wall biosynthesis but does not form pores. Nisin and vancomycin both inhibited the replication of vegetative cells, but only nisin inhibited the transition from a germinated spore to a vegetative cell. Moreover, vancomycin prevented nisin’s activity in competition studies, suggesting that the nisin-lipid II interaction is important for inhibition of spore outgrowth. In experiments with fluorescently labeled nisin, no evidence was found for a covalent mechanism for inhibition of spore outgrowth. Interestingly, mutants in the hinge region (N20P/M21P and M21P/K22P) that still bind lipid II but cannot form pores had potent antimicrobial activity against vegetative B. anthracis cells but did not inhibit spore outgrowth. Therefore, pore formation is essential for the latter activity but not the former. Collectively, these studies suggest that nisin utilizes lipid II as the germinated spore target during outgrowth inhibition and that nisin-mediated membrane disruption is essential to inhibit spore development into vegetative cells.
PMCID: PMC3178273  PMID: 21517116
4.  The Presence of Modifiable Residues in the Core Peptide Part of Precursor Nisin Is Not Crucial for Precursor Nisin Interactions with NisB- and NisC 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e74890.
Precursor nisin is a model posttranslationally modified precursor lantibiotic that can be structurally divided into a leader peptide sequence and a modifiable core peptide part. The nisin core peptide clearly plays an important role in the precursor nisin – nisin modification enzymes interactions, since it has previously been shown that the construct containing only the nisin leader sequence is not sufficient to pull-down the nisin modification enzymes NisB and NisC. Serines and threonines in the core peptide part are the residues that NisB specifically dehydrates, and cysteines are the residues that NisC stereospecifically couples to the dehydrated amino acids. Here, we demonstrate that increasing the number of negatively charged residues in the core peptide part of precursor nisin, which are absent in wild-type nisin, does not abolish binding of precursor nisin to the modification enzymes NisB and NisC, but dramatically decreases the antimicrobial potency of these nisin mutants. An unnatural precursor nisin variant lacking all serines and threonines in the core peptide part and an unnatural precursor nisin variant lacking all cysteines in the core peptide part still bind the nisin modification enzymes NisB and NisC, suggesting that these residues are not essential for direct interactions with the nisin modification enzymes NisB and NisC. These results are important for lantibiotic engineering studies.
PMCID: PMC3767804  PMID: 24040355
5.  Bioengineered Nisin A Derivatives with Enhanced Activity against Both Gram Positive and Gram Negative Pathogens 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e46884.
Nisin is a bacteriocin widely utilized in more than 50 countries as a safe and natural antibacterial food preservative. It is the most extensively studied bacteriocin, having undergone decades of bioengineering with a view to improving function and physicochemical properties. The discovery of novel nisin variants with enhanced activity against clinical and foodborne pathogens has recently been described. We screened a randomized bank of nisin A producers and identified a variant with a serine to glycine change at position 29 (S29G), with enhanced efficacy against S. aureus SA113. Using a site-saturation mutagenesis approach we generated three more derivatives (S29A, S29D and S29E) with enhanced activity against a range of Gram positive drug resistant clinical, veterinary and food pathogens. In addition, a number of the nisin S29 derivatives displayed superior antimicrobial activity to nisin A when assessed against a range of Gram negative food-associated pathogens, including E. coli, Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium and Cronobacter sakazakii. This is the first report of derivatives of nisin, or indeed any lantibiotic, with enhanced antimicrobial activity against both Gram positive and Gram negative bacteria.
PMCID: PMC3466204  PMID: 23056510
6.  In vivo activity of Nisin A and Nisin V against Listeria monocytogenes in mice 
BMC Microbiology  2013;13:23.
Lantibiotics are post-translationally modified antimicrobial peptides, of which nisin A is the most extensively studied example. Bioengineering of nisin A has resulted in the generation of derivatives with increased in vitro potency against Gram-positive bacteria. Of these, nisin V (containing a Met21Val change) is noteworthy by virtue of exhibiting enhanced antimicrobial efficacy against a wide range of clinical and food-borne pathogens, including Listeria monocytogenes. However, this increased potency has not been tested in vivo.
Here we address this issue by assessing the ability of nisin A and nisin V to control a bioluminescent strain of Listeria monocytogenes EGDe in a murine infection model.
More specifically, Balb/c mice were infected via the intraperitoneal route at a dose of 1 × 105 cfu/animal and subsequently treated intraperitoneally with either nisin V, nisin A or a PBS control. Bioimaging of the mice was carried out on day 3 of the trial. Animals were then sacrificed and levels of infection were quantified in the liver and spleen.
This analysis revealed that nisin V was more effective than Nisin A with respect to controlling infection and therefore merits further investigation with a view to potential chemotherapeutic applications.
PMCID: PMC3616995  PMID: 23374279
Antimicrobial; Lantibiotic; Bacteriocin; Peptide engineering; Mutagenesis; Nisin
7.  The length of a lantibiotic hinge region has profound influence on antimicrobial activity and host specificity 
Lantibiotics are ribosomally synthesized (methyl)lanthionine containing peptides which can efficiently inhibit the growth of Gram-positive bacteria. As lantibiotics kill bacteria efficiently and resistance to them is difficult to be obtained, they have the potential to be used in many applications, e.g., in pharmaceutical industry or food industry. Nisin can inhibit the growth of Gram-positive bacteria by binding to lipid II and by making pores in their membrane. The C-terminal part of nisin is known to play an important role during translocation over the membrane and forming pore complexes. However, as the thickness of bacterial membranes varies between different species and environmental conditions, this property could have an influence on the pore forming activity of nisin. To investigate this, the so-called “hinge region” of nisin (residues NMK) was engineered to vary from one to six amino acid residues and specific activity against different indicators was compared. Antimicrobial activity in liquid culture assays showed that wild type nisin is most active, while truncation of the hinge region dramatically reduced the activity of the peptide. However, one or two amino acids extensions showed only slightly reduced activity against most indicator strains. Notably, some variants (+2, +1, −1, −2) exhibited higher antimicrobial activity than nisin in agar well diffusion assays against Lactococcus lactis MG1363, Listeria monocytogenes, Enterococcus faecalis VE14089, Bacillus sporothermodurans IC4 and Bacillus cereus 4153 at certain temperatures.
PMCID: PMC4310329
lantibiotics; nisin; hinge region; membrane; diffusion
8.  Intensive Mutagenesis of the Nisin Hinge Leads to the Rational Design of Enhanced Derivatives 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e79563.
Nisin A is the most extensively studied lantibiotic and has been used as a preservative by the food industry since 1953. This 34 amino acid peptide contains three dehydrated amino acids and five thioether rings. These rings, resulting from one lanthionine and four methyllanthionine bridges, confer the peptide with its unique structure. Nisin A has two mechanisms of action, with the N-terminal domain of the peptide inhibiting cell wall synthesis through lipid II binding and the C-terminal domain responsible for pore-formation. The focus of this study is the three amino acid ‘hinge’ region (N 20, M 21 and K 22) which separates these two domains and allows for conformational flexibility. As all lantibiotics are gene encoded, novel variants can be generated through manipulation of the corresponding gene. A number of derivatives in which the hinge region was altered have previously been shown to possess enhanced antimicrobial activity. Here we take this approach further by employing simultaneous, indiscriminate site-saturation mutagenesis of all three hinge residues to create a novel bank of nisin derivative producers. Screening of this bank revealed that producers of peptides with hinge regions consisting of AAK, NAI and SLS displayed enhanced bioactivity against a variety of targets. These and other results suggested a preference for small, chiral amino acids within the hinge region, leading to the design and creation of producers of peptides with hinges consisting of AAA and SAA. These producers, and the corresponding peptides, exhibited enhanced bioactivity against Lactococcus lactis HP, Streptococcus agalactiae ATCC 13813, Mycobacterium smegmatis MC2155 and Staphylococcus aureus RF122 and thus represent the first example of nisin derivatives that possess enhanced activity as a consequence of rational design.
PMCID: PMC3823697  PMID: 24244524
9.  Lantibiotic Immunity: Inhibition of Nisin Mediated Pore Formation by NisI 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e102246.
Nisin, a 3.4 kDa antimicrobial peptide produced by some Lactococcus lactis strains is the most prominent member of the lantibiotic family. Nisin can inhibit cell growth and penetrates the target Gram-positive bacterial membrane by binding to Lipid II, an essential cell wall synthesis precursor. The assembled nisin-Lipid II complex forms pores in the target membrane. To gain immunity against its own-produced nisin, Lactococcus lactis is expressing two immunity protein systems, NisI and NisFEG. Here, we show that the NisI expressing strain displays an IC50 of 73±10 nM, an 8–10-fold increase when compared to the non-expressing sensitive strain. When the nisin concentration is raised above 70 nM, the cells expressing full-length NisI stop growing rather than being killed. NisI is inhibiting nisin mediated pore formation, even at nisin concentrations up to 1 µM. This effect is induced by the C-terminus of NisI that protects Lipid II. Its deletion showed pore formation again. The expression of NisI in combination with externally added nisin mediates an elongation of the chain length of the Lactococcus lactis cocci. While the sensitive strain cell-chains consist mainly of two cells, the NisI expressing cells display a length of up to 20 cells. Both results shed light on the immunity of lantibiotic producer strains, and their survival in high levels of their own lantibiotic in the habitat.
PMCID: PMC4094520  PMID: 25014359
10.  Saturation Mutagenesis of Lysine 12 Leads to the Identification of Derivatives of Nisin A with Enhanced Antimicrobial Activity 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e58530.
It is becoming increasingly apparent that innovations from the “golden age” of antibiotics are becoming ineffective, resulting in a pressing need for novel therapeutics. The bacteriocin family of antimicrobial peptides has attracted much attention in recent years as a source of potential alternatives. The most intensively studied bacteriocin is nisin, a broad spectrum lantibiotic that inhibits Gram-positive bacteria including important food pathogens and clinically relevant antibiotic resistant bacteria. Nisin is gene-encoded and, as such, is amenable to peptide bioengineering, facilitating the generation of novel derivatives that can be screened for desirable properties. It was to this end that we used a site-saturation mutagenesis approach to create a bank of producers of nisin A derivatives that differ with respect to the identity of residue 12 (normally lysine; K12). A number of these producers exhibited enhanced bioactivity and the nisin A K12A producer was deemed of greatest interest. Subsequent investigations with the purified antimicrobial highlighted the enhanced specific activity of this modified nisin against representative target strains from the genera Streptococcus, Bacillus, Lactococcus, Enterococcus and Staphylococcus.
PMCID: PMC3594307  PMID: 23505531
11.  Discovery of Stable and Variable Differences in the Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis Type I, II, and III Genomes by Pan-Genome Microarray Analysis▿ †  
Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis is an important animal pathogen widely disseminated in the environment that has also been associated with Crohn's disease in humans. Three M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis genomotypes are recognized, but genomic differences have not been fully described. To further investigate these potential differences, a 60-mer oligonucleotide microarray (designated the MAPAC array), based on the combined genomes of M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis (strain K-10) and Mycobacterium avium subsp. hominissuis (strain 104), was designed and validated. By use of a test panel of defined M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis strains, the MAPAC array was able to identify a set of large sequence polymorphisms (LSPs) diagnostic for each of the three major M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis types. M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis type II strains contained a smaller genomic complement than M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis type I and M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis type III genomotypes, which included a set of genomic regions also found in M. avium subsp. hominissuis 104. Specific PCRs for genes within LSPs that differentiated M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis types were devised and shown to accurately screen a panel (n = 78) of M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis strains. Analysis of insertion/deletion region INDEL12 showed deletion events causing a reduction in the complement of mycobacterial cell entry genes in M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis type II strains and significantly altering the coding of a major immunologic protein (MPT64) associated with persistence and granuloma formation. Analysis of MAPAC data also identified signal variations in several genomic regions, termed variable genomic islands (vGIs), suggestive of transient duplication/deletion events. vGIs contained significantly low GC% and were immediately flanked by insertion sequences, integrases, or short inverted repeat sequences. Quantitative PCR demonstrated that variation in vGI signals could be associated with colony growth rate and morphology.
PMCID: PMC2632155  PMID: 19047395
12.  Antibacterial Activities of Nisin Z Encapsulated in Liposomes or Produced In Situ by Mixed Culture during Cheddar Cheese Ripening 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2002;68(11):5607-5619.
This study investigated both the activity of nisin Z, either encapsulated in liposomes or produced in situ by a mixed starter, against Listeria innocua, Lactococcus spp., and Lactobacillus casei subsp. casei and the distribution of nisin Z in a Cheddar cheese matrix. Nisin Z molecules were visualized using gold-labeled anti-nisin Z monoclonal antibodies and transmission electron microscopy (immune-TEM). Experimental Cheddar cheeses were made using a nisinogenic mixed starter culture, containing Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis biovar diacetylactis UL 719 as the nisin producer and two nisin-tolerant lactococcal strains and L. casei subsp. casei as secondary flora, and ripened at 7°C for 6 months. In some trials, L. innocua was added to cheese milk at 105 to 106 CFU/ml. In 6-month-old cheeses, 90% of the initial activity of encapsulated nisin (280 ± 14 IU/g) was recovered, in contrast to only 12% for initial nisin activity produced in situ by the nisinogenic starter (300 ± 15 IU/g). During ripening, immune-TEM observations showed that encapsulated nisin was located mainly at the fat/casein interface and/or embedded in whey pockets while nisin produced by biovar diacetylactis UL 719 was uniformly distributed in the fresh cheese matrix but concentrated in the fat area as the cheeses aged. Cell membrane in lactococci appeared to be the main nisin target, while in L. casei subsp. casei and L. innocua, nisin was more commonly observed in the cytoplasm. Cell wall disruption and digestion and lysis vesicle formation were common observations among strains exposed to nisin. Immune-TEM observations suggest several modes of action for nisin Z, which may be genus and/or species specific and may include intracellular target-specific activity. It was concluded that nisin-containing liposomes can provide a powerful tool to improve nisin stability and availability in the cheese matrix.
PMCID: PMC129882  PMID: 12406756
13.  Role of transmembrane pH gradient and membrane binding in nisin pore formation. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1997;179(1):135-140.
Nisin is a cationic antimicrobial peptide that belongs to the group of lantibiotics. It is thought to form oligomeric pores in the target membrane by a mechanism that requires the transmembrane electrical potential delta psi and that involves local pertubation of the lipid bilayer structure. Here we show that nisin does not form exclusively voltage-dependent pores: even in the absence of a delta psi, nisin is able to dissipate the transmembrane pH gradient (delta pH) in sensitive Lactococcus lactis cells and proteoliposomes. The rate of dissipation increases with the magnitude of the delta pH. Nisin forms pores only when the delta pH is inside alkaline. The efficiency of delta psi-induced pore formation is strongly affected by the external pH, whereas delta pH-induced pore formation is rather insensitive to the external pH. Nisin(1-12), an amino-terminal fragment of nisin, and (des-deltaAla5)-(nisin(1-32) amide have a strongly reduced capacity to dissipate the delta psi and delta pH in cytochrome c oxidase proteoliposomes and L. lactis cells. Both variants bind with reduced efficiency to liposomes containing negatively charged phospholipids, suggesting that both ring A and rings C to E play a role in membrane binding. Nisin(1-12) competes with nisin for membrane binding and antagonizes pore formation. These findings are consistent with the wedge model of nisin-induced pore formation.
PMCID: PMC178671  PMID: 8981990
14.  Novel Mechanism for Nisin Resistance via Proteolytic Degradation of Nisin by the Nisin Resistance Protein NSR▿  
Nisin is a 34-residue antibacterial peptide produced by Lactococcus lactis that is active against a wide range of gram-positive bacteria. In non-nisin-producing L. lactis, nisin resistance could be conferred by a specific nisin resistance gene (nsr), which encodes a 35-kDa nisin resistance protein (NSR). However, the mechanism underlying NSR-mediated nisin resistance is poorly understood. Here we demonstrated that the protein without the predicted N-terminal signal peptide sequence, i.e., NSRSD, could proteolytically inactivate nisin in vitro by removing six amino acids from the carboxyl “tail” of nisin. The truncated nisin (nisin1-28) displayed a markedly reduced affinity for the cell membrane and showed significantly diminished pore-forming potency in the membrane. A 100-fold reduction of bactericidal activity was detected for nisin1-28 in comparison to that for the intact nisin. In vivo analysis indicated that NSR localized on the cell membrane and endowed host strains with nisin resistance by degrading nisin as NSRSD did in vitro, whereas NSRSD failed to confer resistance upon the host strain. In conclusion, we showed that NSR is a nisin-degrading protease. This NSR-mediated proteolytic cleavage represents a novel mechanism for nisin resistance in non-nisin-producing L. lactis.
PMCID: PMC2681560  PMID: 19273681
15.  Entianin, a Novel Subtilin-Like Lantibiotic from Bacillus subtilis subsp. spizizenii DSM 15029T with High Antimicrobial Activity▿ †  
Lantibiotics, such as nisin and subtilin, are lanthionine-containing peptides that exhibit antimicrobial as well as pheromone-like autoinducing activity. Autoinduction is specific for each lantibiotic, and reporter systems for nisin and subtilin autoinduction are available. In this report, we used the previously reported subtilin autoinduction bioassay in combination with mass spectrometric analyses to identify the novel subtilin-like lantibiotic entianin from Bacillus subtilis subsp. spizizenii DSM 15029T. Linearization of entianin using Raney nickel-catalyzed reductive cleavage enabled, for the first time, the use of tandem mass spectrometry for the fast and efficient determination of an entire lantibiotic primary structure, including posttranslational modifications. The amino acid sequence determined was verified by DNA sequencing of the etnS structural gene, which confirmed that entianin differs from subtilin at 3 amino acid positions. In contrast to B. subtilis ATCC 6633, which produces only small amounts of unsuccinylated subtilin, B. subtilis DSM 15029T secretes considerable amounts of unsuccinylated entianin. Entianin was very active against several Gram-positive pathogens, such as Staphylococcus aureus and Enterococcus faecalis. The growth-inhibiting activity of succinylated entianin (S-entianin) was much lower than that of unsuccinylated entianin: a 40-fold higher concentration was required for inhibition. For succinylated subtilin (S-subtilin), a concentration 100-fold higher than that of unsuccinylated entianin was required to inhibit the growth of a B. subtilis test strain. This finding was in accordance with a strongly reduced sensing of cellular envelope stress provided by S-entianin relative to that of entianin. Remarkably, S-entianin and S-subtilin showed considerable autoinduction activity, clearly demonstrating that autoinduction and antibiotic activity underlie different molecular mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC3067280  PMID: 21239550
16.  TelA Contributes to the Innate Resistance of Listeria monocytogenes to Nisin and Other Cell Wall-Acting Antibiotics▿  
Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy  2010;54(11):4658-4663.
Nisin is a class I bacteriocin (lantibiotic), which is employed by the food and veterinary industries and exhibits potent activity against numerous pathogens. However, this activity could be further improved through the targeting and inhibition of factors that contribute to innate nisin resistance. Here we describe a novel locus, lmo1967, which is required for optimal nisin resistance in Listeria monocytogenes. The importance of this locus, which is a homologue of the tellurite resistance gene telA, was revealed after the screening of a mariner random mutant bank of L. monocytogenes for nisin-susceptible mutants. The involvement of telA in nisin resistance was confirmed through an analysis of a nonpolar deletion mutant. In addition to being 4-fold-more susceptible to nisin, the ΔtelA strain was also 8-fold-more susceptible to gallidermin and 2-fold-more susceptible to cefuroxime, cefotaxime, bacitracin, and tellurite. This is the first occasion upon which telA has been investigated in a Gram-positive organism and also represents the first example of a link being established between a telA gene and resistance to cell envelope-acting antimicrobials.
PMCID: PMC2976142  PMID: 20713661
17.  Bioengineered nisin derivatives with enhanced activity in complex matrices 
Microbial biotechnology  2012;5(4):501-508.
Nisin A is the best known and most extensively characterized lantibiotic. As it is ribosomally synthesized, bioengineering‐based strategies can be used to generate variants. We have previously demonstrated that bioengineering of the hinge region of nisin A can result in the generation of variants with enhanced anti‐microbial activity against Gram‐positive pathogens. Here we created a larger bank of hinge variant producers and screened for producers that exhibit enhanced bioactivity as assessed by agar‐based assays against a selection of target strains. Further analysis of 12 ‘lead’ variants reveals that in many cases enhanced bioactivity is not attributable to enhanced specific activity but is instead as a consequence of an enhanced ability to diffuse through complex polymers. In the case of two variants, which contain the residues SVA and NAK, respectively, within the hinge region, we demonstrate that this enhanced trait enables the peptides to dramatically outperform nisin A with respect to controlling Listeria monocytogenes in commercially produced chocolate milk that contains carrageenan as a stabilizer.
PMCID: PMC3815327  PMID: 22260415
18.  Quantifying nisin adsorption behavior at pendant PEO layers 
The antimicrobial peptide nisin shows potent activity against Gram-positive bacteria including the most prevalent implant-associated pathogens. Its mechanism of action minimizes the opportunity for the rise of resistant bacteria and it does not appear to be toxic to humans, suggesting good potential for its use in antibacterial coatings for selected medical devices. A more quantitative understanding of nisin loading and release from polyethylene oxide (PEO) brush layers will inform new strategies for drug storage and delivery, and in this work optical waveguide lightmode spectroscopy was used to record changes in adsorbed mass during cyclic adsorption-elution experiments with nisin, at uncoated and PEO-coated surfaces. PEO layers were prepared by radiolytic grafting of Pluronic® surfactant F108 or F68 to silanized silica surfaces, producing long- or short-chain PEO layers, respectively. Kinetic patterns were interpreted with reference to a model accounting for history-dependent adsorption, in order to evaluate rate constants for nisin adsorption and desorption, as well as the effect of pendant PEO on the lateral clustering behavior of nisin. Nisin adsorption was observed at the uncoated and F108-coated surfaces, but not at the F68-coated surfaces. Nisin showed greater resistance to elution by peptide-free buffer at the uncoated surface, and lateral rearrangement and clustering of adsorbed nisin was apparent only at the uncoated surface. We conclude peptide entrapment at the F108-coated surface is governed by a hydrophobic inner region of the PEO brush layer that is not sufficient for nisin entrapment in the case of the shorter PEO chains of the F68-coated surface.
PMCID: PMC3586417  PMID: 23445762
adsorption kinetics; history dependent model; nisin; PEO brush; peptide entrapment
19.  Production of a Class II Two-Component Lantibiotic of Streptococcus pneumoniae Using the Class I Nisin Synthetic Machinery and Leader Sequence▿  
Recent studies showed that the nisin modification machinery can successfully dehydrate serines and threonines and introduce lanthionine rings in small peptides that are fused to the nisin leader sequence. This opens up exciting possibilities to produce and engineer larger antimicrobial peptides in vivo. Here we demonstrate the exploitation of the class I nisin production machinery to generate, modify, and secrete biologically active, previously not-yet-isolated and -characterized class II two-component lantibiotics that have no sequence homology to nisin. The nisin synthesis machinery, composed of the modification enzymes NisB and NisC and the transporter NisT, was used to modify and secrete a putative two-component lantibiotic of Streptococcus pneumoniae. This was achieved by genetically fusing the propeptide-encoding sequences of the spr1765 (pneA1) and spr1766 (pneA2) genes to the nisin leader-encoding sequence. The chimeric prepeptides were secreted out of Lactococcus lactis, purified by cation exchange fast protein liquid chromatography, and further characterized. Mass spectrometry analyses demonstrated the presence and partial localization of multiple dehydrated serines and/or threonines and (methyl)lanthionines in both peptides. Moreover, after cleavage of the leader peptide from the prepeptides, both modified propeptides displayed antimicrobial activity against Micrococcus flavus. These results demonstrate that the nisin synthetase machinery can be successfully used to modify and produce otherwise difficult to obtain antimicrobially active lantibiotics.
PMCID: PMC2849381  PMID: 20100873
20.  Peptide aMptD-Mediated Capture PCR for Detection of Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis in Bulk Milk Samples 
A peptide-mediated capture PCR for the detection of Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis in bulk milk samples was developed and characterized. Capture of the organism was performed using peptide aMptD, which had been shown to bind to the M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis MptD protein (J. Stratmann, B. Strommenger, R. Goethe, K. Dohmann, G. F. Gerlach, K. Stevenson, L. L. Li, Q. Zhang, V. Kapur, and T. J. Bull, Infect. Immun. 72:1265-1274, 2004). Consistent expression of the MptD receptor protein and binding of the aMptD ligand were demonstrated by capturing different Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis type I and type II strains and subsequent PCR analysis using ISMav2-based primers. The analytical sensitivity of the method was determined to be 5 × 102 CFU ml−1 for artificially contaminated milk. The specificity of aMptD binding was confirmed by culture and competitive capture assays, showing selective enrichment of M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis (at a concentration of 5 × 102 CFU ml−1) from samples containing 100- and 1,000-fold excesses of other mycobacterial species, including M. avium subsp. avium and M. avium subsp. hominissuis. The aMptD-mediated capture of M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis using paramagnetic beads, followed by culture, demonstrated the ability of this approach to capture viable target cells present in artificially contaminated milk. Surface plasmon resonance experiments revealed that the aMptD peptide is a high-affinity ligand with a calculated association rate constant of 9.28 × 103 and an association constant of 1.33 × 109. The potential use of the method on untreated raw milk in the field was investigated by testing 423 bulk milk samples obtained from different dairy farms in Germany, 23 of which tested positive. Taken together, the results imply that the peptide-mediated capture PCR might present a suitable test for paratuberculosis screening of dairy herds, as it has an analytical sensitivity sufficient for detection of M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis in bulk milk samples under field conditions, relies on a defined and validated ligand-receptor interaction, and is adaptable to routine diagnostic laboratory automation.
PMCID: PMC1538760  PMID: 16885259
21.  Dissection and Modulation of the Four Distinct Activities of Nisin by Mutagenesis of Rings A and B and by C-Terminal Truncation▿ † 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2007;73(18):5809-5816.
Nisin A is a pentacyclic antibiotic peptide produced by various Lactococcus lactis strains. Nisin displays four different activities: (i) it autoinduces its own synthesis; (ii) it inhibits the growth of target bacteria by membrane pore formation; (iii) it inhibits bacterial growth by interfering with cell wall synthesis; and, in addition, (iv) it inhibits the outgrowth of spores. Here we investigate the structural requirements and relevance of the N-terminal thioether rings of nisin by randomization of the ring A and B positions. The data demonstrate that: (i) mutation of ring A results in variants with enhanced activity and a modulated spectrum of target cells; (ii) for the cell growth-inhibiting activity of nisin, ring A is rather promiscuous with respect to its amino acid composition, whereas the bulky amino acid residues in ring B abolish antimicrobial activity; (iii) C-terminally truncated nisin A mutants lacking rings D and E retain significant antimicrobial activity but are unable to permeabilize the target membrane; (iv) the dehydroalanine in ring A is not essential for the inhibition of the outgrowth of Bacillus cells; (v) some ring A mutants have significant antimicrobial activities but have decreased autoinducing activities; (vi) the opening of ring B eliminates antimicrobial activity while retaining autoinducing activity; and (vii) some ring A mutants escape the nisin immune system(s) and are toxic to the nisin-producing strain NZ9700. These data demonstrate that the various activities of nisin can be engineered independently and provide a basis for the design and synthesis of tailor-made analogs with desired activities.
PMCID: PMC2074915  PMID: 17660303
22.  Improvement of solubility and stability of the antimicrobial peptide nisin by protein engineering. 
Nisin is a 3.4-kDa antimicrobial peptide that, as a result of posttranslational modifications, contains unsaturated amino acids and lanthionine residues. It is applied as a preservative in various food products. The solubility and stability of nisin and nisin mutants have been studied. It is demonstrated that nisin mutants can be produced with improved functional properties. The solubility of nisin A is highest at low pH values and gradually decreases by almost 2 orders of magnitude when the pH of the solution exceeds a value of 7. At low pH, nisin Z exhibits a decreased solubility relative to that of nisin A; at neutral and higher pH values, the solubilities of both variants are comparable. Two mutants of nisin Z, which contain lysyl residues at positions 27 and 31, respectively, instead of Asn-27 and His-31, were produced with the aim of reaching higher solubility at neutral pH. Both mutants were purified to homogeneity, and their structures were confirmed by one- and two-dimensional 1H nuclear magnetic resonance. Their antimicrobial activities were found to be similar to that of nisin Z, whereas their solubilities at pH 7 increased by factors of 4 and 7, respectively. The chemical stability of nisin A was studied in the pH range of 2 to 8 and at a 20, 37, and 75 degrees C. Optimal stability was observed at pH 3.0. Nisin Z showed a behavior similar to that of nisin A. A mutant containing dehydrobutyrine at position 5 instead of dehydroalanine had lower activity but was significantly more resistant to acid-catalyzed chemical degradation than wild-type nisin Z.
PMCID: PMC167563  PMID: 7487019
23.  The C-terminus of nisin is important for the ABC transporter NisFEG to confer immunity in Lactococcus lactis 
MicrobiologyOpen  2014;3(5):752-763.
The lantibiotic nisin is a small 3.4 kDa antimicrobial peptide, which acts against Gram-positive bacteria in the nmol/L range. Nisin is produced and secreted by several Lactococcus lactis strains to ensure advantages against other bacteria in their habitat. Nisin contains five specific lanthionine rings of which the first two are important for Lipid II binding and the last two are crucial for the pore formation in the membrane. To gain immunity against nisin, the producing strain is expressing an ABC transporter called NisFEG, which expels nisin from the membrane. As a result six to eightfold more nisin is needed to affect the cells. The hydrolysis of ATP by NisFEG is required for this immunity as shown by a mutant, where the ATP hydrolysis is disrupted (NisFH181AEG). Furthermore, NisFEG recognizes the C-terminus of nisin, since deletion of the last six amino acids as well as of the last ring lowered the fold of immunity displayed by NisFEG.
PMCID: PMC4234265  PMID: 25176038
ABC transporter; immunity; lantibiotic; nisin; resistance
24.  Efficient Differentiation of Mycobacterium avium Complex Species and Subspecies by Use of Five-Target Multiplex PCR▿  
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2010;48(11):4057-4062.
Infections caused by the Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC) are on the rise in both human and veterinary medicine. A means of effectively discriminating among closely related yet pathogenetically diverse members of the MAC would enable better diagnosis and treatment as well as further our understanding of the epidemiology of these pathogens. In this study, a five-target multiplex PCR designed to discriminate MAC organisms isolated from liquid culture media was developed. This MAC multiplex was designed to amplify a 16S rRNA gene target common to all Mycobacterium species, a chromosomal target called DT1 that is unique to M. avium subsp. avium serotypes 2 and 3, to M. avium subsp. silvaticum, and to M. intracellulare, and three insertion sequences, IS900, IS901, and IS1311. The pattern of amplification results allowed determination of whether isolates were mycobacteria, whether they were members of the MAC, and whether they belonged to one of three major MAC subspecies, M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis, M. avium subsp. avium, and M. avium subsp. hominissuis. Analytical sensitivity was 10 fg of M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis genomic DNA, 5 to 10 fg of M. avium subsp. avium genomic DNA, and 2 to 5 fg of DNA from other mycobacterial species. Identification accuracy of the MAC multiplex was evaluated by testing 53 bacterial reference strains consisting of 28 different mycobacterial species and 12 nonmycobacterial species. Identification accuracy in a clinical setting was evaluated for 223 clinical MAC isolates independently identified by other methods. Isolate identification agreement between the MAC multiplex and these comparison assays was 100%. The novel MAC multiplex is a rapid, reliable, and simple assay for discrimination of MAC species and subspecies in liquid culture media.
PMCID: PMC3020869  PMID: 20810779
25.  Contributions of the σW, σM, and σX Regulons to the Lantibiotic Resistome of Bacillus subtilis 
Molecular microbiology  2013;90(3):502-518.
In Bacillus subtilis, the extracytoplasmic function (ECF) σ factors σM, σW, and σX all contribute to resistance against lantibiotics. Nisin, a model lantibiotic, has a dual mode of action: it inhibits cell wall synthesis by binding lipid II, and this complex also forms pores in the cytoplasmic membrane. These activities can be separated in a nisin hinge-region variant (N20P M21P) that binds lipid II, but no longer permeabilizes membranes. The major contribution of σM to nisin resistance is expression of ltaSa, encoding a stress-activated lipoteichoic acid synthase, and σX functions primarily by activation of the dlt operon controlling D-alanylation of teichoic acids. Together, σM and σX regulate cell envelope structure to decrease access of nisin to its lipid II target. In contrast, σW is principally involved in protection against membrane permeabilization as it provides little protection against the nisin hinge region variant. σW contributes to nisin resistance by regulation of a signal peptide peptidase (SppA), phage shock proteins (PspA and YvlC, a PspC homolog), and tellurite resistance related proteins (YceGHI). These defensive mechanisms are also effective against other lantibiotics such as mersacidin, gallidermin, and subtilin and comprise an important subset of the intrinsic antibiotic resistome of B. subtilis.
PMCID: PMC4067139  PMID: 23980836

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