Bacteriocins — a viable alternative to antibiotics?


Key Points

  • Solutions are urgently required for the growing number of infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria and to address the fact that broad-spectrum antibiotics can considerably harm the commensal human microbiota.

  • Bacteriocins are potential alternatives to traditional antibiotics. These peptides, which are produced by many bacteria, can have a high potency and a low toxicity, can be produced in situ by probiotics and can be bioengineered. Both broad- and narrow-spectrum bacteriocins exist.

  • Bacteriocins function through different mechanisms that are frequently distinct from those used by antibiotics. Bacteriocins can be broadly classified into those that target the cell membrane and those that function within the cell, targeting DNA, RNA and protein metabolism.

  • Resistance to bacteriocins is a potential problem. In some cases, resistance arises at a sufficiently low rate to allow commercialization of the peptide in its natural form. In other cases, knowledge of the potential resistance mechanisms could be crucial for minimizing the emergence of resistance when clinical applications commence.

  • Many bacteriocins possess properties which suggest that these peptides could be of value in clinical settings. However, to date, the primary focus for their use has been on animal, rather than human, health.

  • A lack of sufficient investment has been a significant problem with respect to the medical application of bacteriocins. Notably, however, there is evidence to suggest that issue is finally being addressed.


Solutions are urgently required for the growing number of infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Bacteriocins, which are antimicrobial peptides produced by certain bacteria, might warrant serious consideration as alternatives to traditional antibiotics. These molecules exhibit significant potency against other bacteria (including antibiotic-resistant strains), are stable and can have narrow or broad activity spectra. Bacteriocins can even be produced in situ in the gut by probiotic bacteria to combat intestinal infections. Although the application of specific bacteriocins might be curtailed by the development of resistance, an understanding of the mechanisms by which such resistance could emerge will enable researchers to develop strategies to minimize this potential problem.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Narrow-spectrum activity of thuricin CD.
Figure 2: Probiotic delivery of bacteriocins.
Figure 3: Mechanism of action of representative bacteriocins.


  1. 1

    White, A. R. Effective antibacterials: at what cost? The economics of antibacterial resistance and its control. J. Antimicrob. Chemother. 66, 1948–1953 (2011).

  2. 2

    Cooper, M. A. & Shlaes, D. Fix the antibiotics pipeline. Nature 472, 32 (2011).

  3. 3

    Blaser, M. Antibiotic overuse: stop the killing of beneficial bacteria. Nature 476, 393–394 (2011).

  4. 4

    Willing, B. P., Russell, S. L. & Finlay, B. B. Shifting the balance: antibiotic effects on host–microbiota mutualism. Nature Rev. Microbiol. 9, 233–243 (2011).

  5. 5

    Cotter, P. D., Stanton, C., Ross, R. P. & Hill, C. The impact of antibiotics on the gut microbiota as revealed by high throughput DNA sequencing. Discov. Med. 13, 193–199 (2012).

  6. 6

    Savoia, D. Plant-derived antimicrobial compounds: alternatives to antibiotics. Future Microbiol. 7, 979–990 (2012).

  7. 7

    Burrowes, B., Harper, D. R., Anderson, J., McConville, M. & Enright, M. C. Bacteriophage therapy: potential uses in the control of antibiotic-resistant pathogens. Expert Rev. Anti Infect. Ther. 9, 775–785 (2011).

  8. 8

    Kole, R., Krainer, A. R. & Altman, S. RNA therapeutics: beyond RNA interference and antisense oligonucleotides. Nature Rev. Drug Discov. 11, 125–140 (2012).

  9. 9

    Shanahan, F. Probiotics in perspective. Gastroenterology 139, 1808–1812 (2010).

  10. 10

    Li, Y., Xiang, Q., Zhang, Q., Huang, Y. & Su, Z. Overview on the recent study of antimicrobial peptides: origins, functions, relative mechanisms and application. Peptides 37, 207–215 (2012).

  11. 11

    Cotter, P. D., Hill, C. & Ross, R. P. Bacteriocins: developing innate immunity for food. Nature Rev. Microbiol. 3, 777–788 (2005).

  12. 12

    Rea, M. C. et al. Thuricin CD, a posttranslationally modified bacteriocin with a narrow spectrum of activity against Clostridium difficile. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 107, 9352–9357 (2010).

  13. 13

    Boakes, S. et al. Generation of an actagardine A variant library through saturation mutagenesis. Appl. Microbiol. Biotechnol. 95, 1509–1517 (2012).

  14. 14

    Svetoch, E. A. & Stern, N. J. Bacteriocins to control Campylobacter spp. in poultry—a review. Poult. Sci. 89, 1763–1768 (2010).

  15. 15

    Desriac, F. et al. Bacteriocin as weapons in the marine animal-associated bacteria warfare: inventory and potential applications as an aquaculture probiotic. Mar. Drugs 8, 1153–1177 (2010).

  16. 16

    Piper, C., Cotter, P. D., Ross, R. P. & Hill, C. Discovery of medically significant lantibiotics. Curr. Drug Discov. Technol. 6, 1–18 (2009).

  17. 17

    Zhang, C. et al. Thiazomycins, thiazolyl peptide antibiotics from Amycolatopsis fastidiosa. J. Nat. Prod. 72, 841–847 (2009).

  18. 18

    Zhang, C. et al. Isolation, structure, and antibacterial activity of philipimycin, a thiazolyl peptide discovered from Actinoplanes philippinensis MA7347. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 130, 12102–12110 (2008).

  19. 19

    Singh, S. B. et al. Antibacterial evaluations of thiazomycin — a potent thiazolyl peptide antibiotic from Amycolatopsis fastidiosa. J. Antibiot. 60, 565–571 (2007).

  20. 20

    Morris, R. P. et al. Ribosomally synthesized thiopeptide antibiotics targeting elongation factor Tu. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 131, 5946–5955 (2009).

  21. 21

    Leeds, J. A., Sachdeva, M., Mullin, S., Dzink-Fox, J. & Lamarche, M. J. Mechanism of action of, and mechanism of reduced susceptibility to the novel anti-Clostridium difficile compound LFF571. Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 56, 4463–4465 (2012).

  22. 22

    Shelburne, C. E. et al. The spectrum of antimicrobial activity of the bacteriocin subtilosin A. J. Antimicrob. Chemother. 59, 297–300 (2007).

  23. 23

    Noll, K. S., Sinko, P. J. & Chikindas, M. L. Elucidation of the molecular mechanisms of action of the natural antimicrobial peptide subtilosin against the bacterial vaginosis-associated pathogen Gardnerella vaginalis. Probiotics Antimicrob. Proteins 3, 41–47 (2011).

  24. 24

    Paik, S. H., Chakicherla, A. & Hansen, J. N. Identification and characterization of the structural and transporter genes for, and the chemical and biological properties of, sublancin 168, a novel lantibiotic produced by Bacillus subtilis 168. J. Biol. Chem. 273, 23134–23142 (1998).

  25. 25

    Freeman, M. F. et al. Metagenome mining reveals polytheonamides as posttranslationally modified ribosomal peptides. Science 338, 387–390 (2012).

  26. 26

    Kobayashi, Y. et al. Bottromycin derivatives: efficient chemical modifications of the ester moiety and evaluation of anti-MRSA and anti-VRE activities. Bioorg. Med. Chem. Lett. 20, 6116–6120 (2010).

  27. 27

    Eijsink, V. G., Skeie, M., Middelhoven, P. H., Brurberg, M. B. & Nes, I. F. Comparative studies of class IIa bacteriocins of lactic acid bacteria. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 64, 3275–3281 (1998).

  28. 28

    Drider, D., Fimland, G., Hechard, Y., McMullen, L. M. & Prevost, H. The continuing story of class IIa bacteriocins. Microbiol. Mol. Biol. Revs 70, 564–582 (2006).

  29. 29

    Sanchez-Hidalgo, M. et al. AS-48 bacteriocin: close to perfection. Cell. Mol. Life Sci. 68, 2845–2857 (2011).

  30. 30

    Sandiford, S. & Upton, M. Identification, characterization, and recombinant expression of epidermicin NI01, a novel unmodified bacteriocin produced by Staphylococcus epidermidis that displays potent activity against staphylococci. Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 56, 1539–1547 (2012).

  31. 31

    Garcia-Bustos, J. F., Pezzi, N. & Mendez, E. Structure and mode of action of microcin 7, an antibacterial peptide produced by Escherichia coli. Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 27, 791–797 (1985).

  32. 32

    Destoumieux-Garzon, D. et al. The iron-siderophore transporter FhuA is the receptor for the antimicrobial peptide microcin J25: role of the microcin Val11–Pro16β-hairpin region in the recognition mechanism. Biochem. J. 389, 869–876 (2005).

  33. 33

    Soudy, R., Wang, L. & Kaur, K. Synthetic peptides derived from the sequence of a lasso peptide microcin J25 show antibacterial activity. Bioorg. Med. Chem. 20, 1794–1800 (2012).

  34. 34

    Asensio, C. & Perez-Diaz, J. C. A new family of low molecular weight antibiotics from enterobacteria. Biochem. Biophys. Res. Commun. 69, 7–14 (1976).

  35. 35

    Baquero, F. & Moreno, F. The microcins. FEMS Microbiol. Lett. 23, 117–124 (1984).

  36. 36

    Havarstein, L. S., Holo, H. & Nes, I. F. The leader peptide of colicin V shares consensus sequences with leader peptides that are common among peptide bacteriocins produced by Gram-positive bacteria. Microbiology 140, 2383–2389 (1994).

  37. 37

    Pons, A. M. et al. Genetic analysis and complete primary structure of microcin L. Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 48, 505–513 (2004).

  38. 38

    Thomas, X. et al. Siderophore peptide, a new type of post-translationally modified antibacterial peptide with potent activity. J. Biol. Chem. 279, 28233–28242 (2004).

  39. 39

    Vassiliadis, G., Destoumieux-Garzon, D., Lombard, C., Rebuffat, S. & Peduzzi, J. Isolation and characterization of two members of the siderophore-microcin family, microcins M and H47. Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 54, 288–297 (2010).

  40. 40

    Kuwano, K. et al. Dual antibacterial mechanisms of nisin Z against Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria. Int. J. Antimicrob. Agents 26, 396–402 (2005).

  41. 41

    Morency, H., Mota-Meira, M., LaPointe, G., Lacroix, C. & Lavoie, M. C. Comparison of the activity spectra against pathogens of bacterial strains producing a mutacin or a lantibiotic. Can. J. Microbiol. 47, 322–331 (2001).

  42. 42

    Svetoch, E. A. et al. Inactivating methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and other pathogens by use of bacteriocins OR-7 and E 50–52. J. Clin. Microbiol. 46, 3863–3865 (2008).

  43. 43

    Giacometti, A., Cirioni, O., Barchiesi, F. & Scalise, G. In-vitro activity and killing effect of polycationic peptides on methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and interactions with clinically used antibiotics. Diagn. Microbiol. Infect. Dis. 38, 115–118 (2000).

  44. 44

    Brumfitt, W., Salton, M. R. & Hamilton-Miller, J. M. Nisin, alone and combined with peptidoglycan-modulating antibiotics: activity against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and vancomycin-resistant enterococci. J. Antimicrob. Chemother. 50, 731–734 (2002).

  45. 45

    Pomares, M. F., Delgado, M. A., Corbalan, N. S., Farias, R. N. & Vincent, P. A. Sensitization of microcin J25-resistant strains by a membrane-permeabilizing peptide. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 76, 6837–6842 (2010).

  46. 46

    Salvucci, E., Hebert, E. M., Sesma, F. & Saavedra, L. Combined effect of synthetic enterocin CRL35 with cell wall, membrane-acting antibiotics and muranolytic enzymes against Listeria cells. Lett. Appl. Microbiol. 51, 191–195 (2010).

  47. 47

    Noll, K. S., Prichard, M. N., Khaykin, A., Sinko, P. J. & Chikindas, M. L. The natural antimicrobial peptide subtilosin acts synergistically with glycerol monolaurate, lauric arginate, and ɛ-poly-l-lysine against bacterial vaginosis-associated pathogens but not human lactobacilli. Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 56, 1756–1761 (2012).

  48. 48

    Fontana, M. B., de Bastos Mdo, C. & Brandelli, A. Bacteriocins Pep5 and epidermin inhibit Staphylococcus epidermidis adhesion to catheters. Curr. Microbiol. 52, 350–353 (2006).

  49. 49

    Goldstein, B. P., Wei, J., Greenberg, K. & Novick, R. Activity of nisin against Streptococcus pneumoniae, in vitro, and in a mouse infection model. J. Antimicrob. Chemother. 42, 277–278 (1998).

  50. 50

    van Staden, A. D., Brand, A. M. & Dicks, L. M. Nisin F-loaded brushite bone cement prevented the growth of Staphylococcus aureus in vivo. J. Appl. Microbiol. 112, 831–840 (2012).

  51. 51

    De Kwaadsteniet, M., Doeschate, K. T. & Dicks, L. M. Nisin F in the treatment of respiratory tract infections caused by Staphylococcus aureus. Lett. Appl. Microbiol. 48, 65–70 (2009).

  52. 52

    Brand, A. M., de Kwaadsteniet, M. & Dicks, L. M. The ability of nisin F to control Staphylococcus aureus infection in the peritoneal cavity, as studied in mice. Lett. Appl. Microbiol. 51, 645–649 (2010).

  53. 53

    Mota-Meira, M., Morency, H. & Lavoie, M. C. In vivo activity of mutacin B-Ny266. J. Antimicrob. Chemother. 56, 869–871 (2005).

  54. 54

    Chatterjee, S. et al. Mersacidin, a new antibiotic from Bacillus. In vitro and in vivo antibacterial activity. J. Antibiot. (Tokyo) 45, 839–845 (1992).

  55. 55

    Kruszewska, D. et al. Mersacidin eradicates methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in a mouse rhinitis model. J. Antimicrob. Chemother. 54, 648–653 (2004).

  56. 56

    Niu, W. W. & Neu, H. C. Activity of mersacidin, a novel peptide, compared with that of vancomycin, teicoplanin, and daptomycin. Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 35, 998–1000 (1991).

  57. 57

    Castiglione, F. et al. A novel lantibiotic acting on bacterial cell wall synthesis produced by the uncommon actinomycete Planomonospora sp. Biochemistry 46, 5884–5895 (2007).

  58. 58

    Haste, N. M. et al. Activity of the thiopeptide antibiotic nosiheptide against contemporary strains of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. J. Antibiot. (Tokyo) 10 Oct 2012 (doi:10.1038/ja.2012.77).

  59. 59

    Xu, L. et al. Nocathiacin analogs: synthesis and antibacterial activity of novel water-soluble amides. Bioorg. Med. Chem. Lett. 19, 3531–3535 (2009).

  60. 60

    Trzasko, A., Leeds, J. A., Praestgaard, J., Lamarche, M. J. & McKenney, D. The efficacy of LFF571 in the hamster model of Clostridium difficile infection. Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 56, 4459–4462 (2012).

  61. 61

    Rihakova, J. et al. In vivo activities of recombinant divercin V41 and its structural variants against Listeria monocytogenes. Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 54, 563–564 (2010).

  62. 62

    Salvucci, E., Saavedra, L., Hebert, E. M., Haro, C. & Sesma, F. Enterocin CRL35 inhibits Listeria monocytogenes in a murine model. Foodborne Pathog. Dis. 9, 68–74 (2012).

  63. 63

    Sosunov, V. et al. Antimycobacterial activity of bacteriocins and their complexes with liposomes. J. Antimicrob. Chemother. 59, 919–925 (2007).

  64. 64

    Lopez, F. E., Vincent, P. A., Zenoff, A. M., Salomon, R. A. & Farias, R. N. Efficacy of microcin J25 in biomatrices and in a mouse model of Salmonella infection. J. Antimicrob. Chemother. 59, 676–680 (2007).

  65. 65

    Maher, S. & McClean, S. Investigation of the cytotoxicity of eukaryotic and prokaryotic antimicrobial peptides in intestinal epithelial cells in vitro. Biochem. Pharmacol. 71, 1289–1298 (2006).

  66. 66

    Cox, C. R., Coburn, P. S. & Gilmore, M. S. Enterococcal cytolysin: a novel two component peptide system that serves as a bacterial defense against eukaryotic and prokaryotic cells. Curr. Protein Pept. Sci. 6, 77–84 (2005).

  67. 67

    Sivonen, K., Leikoski, N., Fewer, D. P. & Jokela, J. Cyanobactins—ribosomal cyclic peptides produced by cyanobacteria. Appl. Microbiol. Biotechnol. 86, 1213–1225 (2010).

  68. 68

    Murinda, S. E., Rashid, K. A. & Roberts, R. F. In vitro assessment of the cytotoxicity of nisin, pediocin, and selected colicins on simian virus 40-transfected human colon and Vero monkey kidney cells with trypan blue staining viability assays. J. Food Prot. 66, 847–853 (2003).

  69. 69

    Jasniewski, J., Cailliez-Grimal, C., Chevalot, I., Milliere, J. B. & Revol-Junelles, A. M. Interactions between two carnobacteriocins Cbn BM1 and Cbn B2 from Carnobacterium maltaromaticum CP5 on target bacteria and Caco-2 cells. Food Chem. Toxicol. 47, 893–897 (2009).

  70. 70

    Hetz, C., Bono, M. R., Barros, L. F. & Lagos, R. Microcin E492, a channel-forming bacteriocin from Klebsiella pneumoniae, induces apoptosis in some human cell lines. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 99, 2696–2701 (2002).

  71. 71

    Lagos, R., Tello, M., Mercado, G., Garcia, V. & Monasterio, O. Antibacterial and antitumorigenic properties of microcin E492, a pore-forming bacteriocin. Curr. Pharm. Biotechnol. 10, 74–85 (2009).

  72. 72

    Nelson, R. L. et al. Antibiotic treatment for Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea in adults. Cochrane Database Syst. Rev. 7 Sep 2011 (doi:10.1002/14651858.CD004610.pub4).

  73. 73

    Rea, M. C. et al. Effect of broad- and narrow-spectrum antimicrobials on Clostridium difficile and microbial diversity in a model of the distal colon. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 108 (Suppl. 1), 4639–4644 (2011).

  74. 74

    Dabour, N., Zihler, A., Kheadr, E., Lacroix, C. & Fliss, I. In vivo study on the effectiveness of pediocin PA-1 and Pediococcus acidilactici UL5 at inhibiting Listeria monocytogenes. Int. J. Food Microbiol. 133, 225–233 (2009).

  75. 75

    Le Blay, G., Lacroix, C., Zihler, A. & Fliss, I. In vitro inhibition activity of nisin A, nisin Z, pediocin PA-1 and antibiotics against common intestinal bacteria. Lett. Appl. Microbiol. 45, 252–257 (2007).

  76. 76

    Bernbom, N. et al. Pediocin PA-1 and a pediocin producing Lactobacillus plantarum strain do not change the HMA rat microbiota. Int. J. Food Microbiol. 130, 251–257 (2009).

  77. 77

    Sutyak, K. E., Wirawan, R. E., Aroutcheva, A. A. & Chikindas, M. L. Isolation of the Bacillus subtilis antimicrobial peptide subtilosin from the dairy product-derived Bacillus amyloliquefaciens. J. Appl. Microbiol. 104, 1067–1074 (2008).

  78. 78

    McCormick, B. A., Franklin, D. P., Laux, D. C. & Cohen, P. S. Type 1 pili are not necessary for colonization of the streptomycin-treated mouse large intestine by type 1-piliated Escherichia coli F-18 and E. coli K-12. Infect. Immun. 57, 3022–3029 (1989).

  79. 79

    Dobson, A., Cotter, P. D., Ross, R. P. & Hill, C. Bacteriocin production: a probiotic trait? Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 78, 1–6 (2012).

  80. 80

    O'Shea, E. F., Cotter, P. D., Stanton, C., Ross, R. P. & Hill, C. Production of bioactive substances by intestinal bacteria as a basis for explaining probiotic mechanisms: bacteriocins and conjugated linoleic acid. Int. J. Food Microbiol. 152, 189–205 (2012).

  81. 81

    Su, P., Henriksson, A. & Mitchell, H. Prebiotics enhance survival and prolong the retention period of specific probiotic inocula in an in vivo murine model. J. Appl. Microbiol. 103, 2392–2400 (2007).

  82. 82

    Su, P., Henriksson, A. & Mitchell, H. Survival and retention of the probiotic Lactobacillus casei LAFTI L26 in the gastrointestinal tract of the mouse. Lett. Appl. Microbiol. 44, 120–125 (2007).

  83. 83

    Gotteland, M. et al. Modulation of Helicobacter pylori colonization with cranberry juice and Lactobacillus johnsonii La1 in children. Nutrition 24, 421–426 (2008).

  84. 84

    Casey, P. G. et al. A five-strain probiotic combination reduces pathogen shedding and alleviates disease signs in pigs challenged with Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 73, 1858–1863 (2007).

  85. 85

    Walsh, M. C. et al. Predominance of a bacteriocin-producing Lactobacillus salivarius component of a five-strain probiotic in the porcine ileum and effects on host immune phenotype. FEMS Microbiol. Ecol. 64, 317–327 (2008).

  86. 86

    Corr, S. C. et al. Bacteriocin production as a mechanism for the antiinfective activity of Lactobacillus salivarius UCC118. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 104, 7617–7621 (2007).

  87. 87

    O'Callaghan, J., Butto, L. F., Macsharry, J., Nally, K. & O'Toole, P. W. Adhesion and bacteriocin production by Lactobacillus salivarius influence the intestinal epithelial cell transcriptional response. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 78, 5196–5203 (2012).

  88. 88

    Millette, M. et al. Capacity of human nisin- and pediocin-producing lactic acid bacteria to reduce intestinal colonization by vancomycin-resistant enterococci. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 74, 1997–2003 (2008).

  89. 89

    Zschuttig, A. et al. Identification and characterization of microcin S, a new antibacterial peptide produced by probiotic Escherichia coli G3/10. PLoS ONE 7, e33351 (2012).

  90. 90

    Hillman, J. D., Mo, J., McDonell, E., Cvitkovitch, D. & Hillman, C. H. Modification of an effector strain for replacement therapy of dental caries to enable clinical safety trials. J. Appl. Microbiol. 102, 1209–1219 (2007).

  91. 91

    Hillman, J. D. Genetically modified Streptococcus mutans for the prevention of dental caries. Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek 82, 361–366 (2002).

  92. 92

    Burton, J. P., Chilcott, C. N., Moore, C. J., Speiser, G. & Tagg, J. R. A preliminary study of the effect of probiotic Streptococcus salivarius K12 on oral malodour parameters. J. Appl. Microbiol. 100, 754–764 (2006).

  93. 93

    Tagg, J. R. Prevention of streptococcal pharyngitis by anti-Streptococcus pyogenes bacteriocin-like inhibitory substances (BLIS) produced by Streptococcus salivarius. Indian J. Med. Res. 119 (Suppl.), 13–16 (2004).

  94. 94

    Dover, S. E., Aroutcheva, A. A., Faro, S. & Chikindas, M. L. Natural antimicrobials and their role in vaginal health: a short review. Int. J. Probiotics Prebiotics 3, 219–230 (2008).

  95. 95

    Wang, Z. et al. Gut flora metabolism of phosphatidylcholine promotes cardiovascular disease. Nature 472, 57–63 (2011).

  96. 96

    Sekirov, I., Russell, S. L., Antunes, L. C. & Finlay, B. B. Gut microbiota in health and disease. Physiol. Rev. 90, 859–904 (2010).

  97. 97

    Murphy, E. F. et al. Divergent metabolic outcomes arising from targeted manipulation of the gut microbiota in diet-induced obesity. Gut 16 Feb 2012 (doi:10.1136/gutjnl-2011-300705).

  98. 98

    Riboulet-Bisson, E. et al. Effect of Lactobacillus salivarius bacteriocin Abp118 on the mouse and pig intestinal microbiota. PLoS ONE 7, e31113 (2012).

  99. 99

    Meijerink, M. et al. Identification of genetic loci in Lactobacillus plantarum that modulate the immune response of dendritic cells using comparative genome hybridization. PLoS ONE 5, e10632 (2010).

  100. 100

    van Hemert, S. et al. Identification of Lactobacillus plantarum genes modulating the cytokine response of human peripheral blood mononuclear cells. BMC Microbiol. 10, 293 (2010).

  101. 101

    Levengood, M. R., Knerr, P. J., Oman, T. J. & van der Donk, W. A. In vitro mutasynthesis of lantibiotic analogues containing nonproteinogenic amino acids. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 131, 12024–12025 (2009).

  102. 102

    Field, D., Hill, C., Cotter, P. D. & Ross, R. P. The dawning of a 'Golden era' in lantibiotic bioengineering. Mol. Microbiol. 78, 1077–1087 (2010).

  103. 103

    Ross, A. C., McKinnie, S. M. & Vederas, J. C. The synthesis of active and stable diaminopimelate analogues of the lantibiotic peptide lactocin S. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 134, 2008–2011 (2012).

  104. 104

    Arnusch, C. J. et al. The vancomycin-nisin(1-12) hybrid restores activity against vancomycin resistant enterococci. Biochemistry 47, 12661–12663 (2008).

  105. 105

    Citron, D. M., Tyrrell, K. L., Merriam, C. V. & Goldstein, E. J. Comparative in vitro activities of LFF571 against Clostridium difficile and 630 other intestinal strains of aerobic and anaerobic bacteria. Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 56, 2493–2503 (2012).

  106. 106

    Zamble, D. B. et al. In vitro characterization of DNA gyrase inhibition by microcin B17 analogs with altered bisheterocyclic sites. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 98, 7712–7717 (2001).

  107. 107

    Van de Vijver, P. et al. Synthetic microcin C analogs targeting different aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases. J. Bacteriol. 191, 6273–6280 (2009).

  108. 108

    Lohans, C. T. & Vederas, J. C. Development of Class IIa bacteriocins as therapeutic agents. Int. J. Microbiol. 2012, 386410 (2012).

  109. 109

    Fimland, G. et al. A C-terminal disulfide bridge in pediocin-like bacteriocins renders bacteriocin activity less temperature dependent and is a major determinant of the antimicrobial spectrum. J. Bacteriol. 182, 2643–2648 (2000).

  110. 110

    Tominaga, T. & Hatakeyama, Y. Development of innovative pediocin PA-1 by DNA shuffling among class IIa bacteriocins. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 73, 5292–5299 (2007).

  111. 111

    Kazazic, M., Nissen-Meyer, J. & Fimland, G. Mutational analysis of the role of charged residues in target-cell binding, potency and specificity of the pediocin-like bacteriocin sakacin P. Microbiology 148, 2019–2027 (2002).

  112. 112

    O'Shea, E. F., O'Connor, P. M., Cotter, P. D., Ross, R. P. & Hill, C. Synthesis of trypsin-resistant variants of the Listeria-active bacteriocin salivaricin P. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 76, 5356–5362 (2010).

  113. 113

    Velasquez, J. E. & van der Donk, W. A. Genome mining for ribosomally synthesized natural products. Curr. Opin. Chem. Biol. 15, 11–21 (2011).

  114. 114

    Begley, M., Cotter, P. D., Hill, C. & Ross, R. P. Identification of a novel two-peptide lantibiotic, lichenicidin, following rational genome mining for LanM proteins. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 75, 5451–5460 (2009).

  115. 115

    Marsh, A. J., O'Sullivan, O., Ross, R. P., Cotter, P. D. & Hill, C. In silico analysis highlights the frequency and diversity of type 1 lantibiotic gene clusters in genome sequenced bacteria. BMC Genomics 11, 679 (2010).

  116. 116

    Wieland Brown, L. C. Acker, M. G., Clardy, J., Walsh, C. T. & Fischbach, M. A. Thirteen posttranslational modifications convert a 14-residue peptide into the antibiotic thiocillin. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 106, 2549–2553 (2009).

  117. 117

    Li, J. et al. ThioFinder: a web-based tool for the identification of thiopeptide gene clusters in DNA sequences. PLoS ONE 7, e45878 (2012).

  118. 118

    Claesen, J. & Bibb, M. Genome mining and genetic analysis of cypemycin biosynthesis reveal an unusual class of posttranslationally modified peptides. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 107, 16297–16302 (2010).

  119. 119

    Stepper, J. et al. Cysteine S-glycosylation, a new post-translational modification found in glycopeptide bacteriocins. FEBS Lett. 585, 645–650 (2011).

  120. 120

    Wang, H., Fewer, D. P. & Sivonen, K. Genome mining demonstrates the widespread occurrence of gene clusters encoding bacteriocins in cyanobacteria. PLoS ONE 6, e22384 (2011).

  121. 121

    Kjos, M. et al. Target recognition, resistance, immunity and genome mining of class II bacteriocins from Gram-positive bacteria. Microbiology 157, 3256–3267 (2011).

  122. 122

    Garg, N., Tang, W., Goto, Y., Nair, S. K. & van der Donk, W. A. Lantibiotics from Geobacillus thermodenitrificans. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 109, 5241–5246 (2012).

  123. 123

    Majchrzykiewicz, J. A. et al. Production of a class II two-component lantibiotic of Streptococcus pneumoniae using the class I nisin synthetic machinery and leader sequence. Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 54, 1498–1505 (2010).

  124. 124

    Bierbaum, G. & Sahl, H. G. Lantibiotics: mode of action, biosynthesis and bioengineering. Curr. Pharm. Biotechnol. 10, 2–18 (2009).

  125. 125

    Martin, N. I. & Breukink, E. Expanding role of lipid II as a target for lantibiotics. Future Microbiol. 2, 513–525 (2007).

  126. 126

    Piper, C., Draper, L. A., Cotter, P. D., Ross, R. P. & Hill, C. A comparison of the activities of lacticin 3147 and nisin against drug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and Enterococcus species. J. Antimicrob. Chemother. 64, 546–551 (2009).

  127. 127

    Diep, D. B., Skaugen, M., Salehian, Z., Holo, H. & Nes, I. F. Common mechanisms of target cell recognition and immunity for class II bacteriocins. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 104, 2384–2389 (2007).

  128. 128

    Destoumieux-Garzon, D., Peduzzi, J., Thomas, X., Djediat, C. & Rebuffat, S. Parasitism of iron-siderophore receptors of Escherichia coli by the siderophore-peptide microcin E492m and its unmodified counterpart. Biometals 19, 181–191 (2006).

  129. 129

    Marki, F., Hanni, E., Fredenhagen, A. & van Oostrum, J. Mode of action of the lanthionine-containing peptide antibiotics duramycin, duramycin B and C, and cinnamycin as indirect inhibitors of phospholipase A2. Biochem. Pharmacol. 42, 2027–2035 (1991).

  130. 130

    Kouwen, T. R. et al. The large mechanosensitive channel MscL determines bacterial susceptibility to the bacteriocin sublancin 168. Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 53, 4702–4711 (2009).

  131. 131

    Parks, W. M., Bottrill, A. R., Pierrat, O. A., Durrant, M. C. & Maxwell, A. The action of the bacterial toxin, microcin B17, on DNA gyrase. Biochimie 89, 500–507 (2007).

  132. 132

    Vincent, P. A. & Morero, R. D. The structure and biological aspects of peptide antibiotic microcin J25. Curr. Med. Chem. 16, 538–549 (2009).

  133. 133

    Novikova, M. et al. The Escherichia coli Yej transporter is required for the uptake of translation inhibitor microcin C. J. Bacteriol. 189, 8361–8365 (2007).

  134. 134

    Kazakov, T. et al. Escherichia coli peptidase A, B, or N can process translation inhibitor microcin C. J. Bacteriol. 190, 2607–2610 (2008).

  135. 135

    Metlitskaya, A. et al. Aspartyl-tRNA synthetase is the target of peptide nucleotide antibiotic microcin C. J. Biol. Chem. 281, 18033–18042 (2006).

  136. 136

    Bagley, M. C., Dale, J. W., Merritt, E. A. & Xiong, X. Thiopeptide antibiotics. Chem. Rev. 105, 685–714 (2005).

  137. 137

    Collins, B., Curtis, N., Cotter, P. D., Hill, C. & Ross, R. P. The ABC transporter AnrAB contributes to the innate resistance of Listeria monocytogenes to nisin, bacitracin, and various β-lactam antibiotics. Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 54, 4416–4423 (2010).

  138. 138

    Kramer, N. E., van Hijum, S. A., Knol, J., Kok, J. & Kuipers, O. P. Transcriptome analysis reveals mechanisms by which Lactococcus lactis acquires nisin resistance. Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 50, 1753–1761 (2006).

  139. 139

    Kjos, M., Nes, I. F. & Diep, D. B. Mechanisms ofesistance to bacteriocins targeting the mannose phosphotransferase system. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 77, 3335–3342 (2011).

  140. 140

    Yuzenkova, J. et al. Mutations of bacterial RNA polymerase leading to resistance to microcin J25. J. Biol. Chem. 277, 50867–50875 (2002).

  141. 141

    del Castillo, F. J., del Castillo, I. & Moreno, F. Construction and characterization of mutations at codon 751 of the Escherichia coli gyrB gene that confer resistance to the antimicrobial peptide microcin B17 and alter the activity of DNA gyrase. J. Bacteriol. 183, 2137–2140 (2001).

  142. 142

    Baumann, S. et al. Molecular determinants of microbial resistance to thiopeptide antibiotics. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 132, 6973–6981 (2010).

  143. 143

    Draper, L. A. et al. Cross-immunity and immune mimicry as mechanisms of resistance to the lantibiotic lacticin 3147. Mol. Microbiol. 71, 1043–1054 (2009).

  144. 144

    Sun, Z. et al. Novel mechanism for nisin resistance via proteolytic degradation of nisin by the nisin resistance protein NSR. Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 53, 1964–1973 (2009).

  145. 145

    Nocek, B. et al. Structural and functional characterization of microcin C resistance peptidase MccF from Bacillus anthracis. J. Mol. Biol. 420, 366–383 (2012).

  146. 146

    Butcher, B. G. & Helmann, J. D. Identification of Bacillus subtilis sigma-dependent genes that provide intrinsic resistance to antimicrobial compounds produced by bacilli. Mol. Microbiol. 60, 765–782 (2006).

  147. 147

    Rink, R. et al. To protect peptide pharmaceuticals against peptidases. J. Pharmacol. Toxicol. Methods 61, 210–218 (2010).

  148. 148

    Febbraro, S., Hancock, A., Boyd, A. & Dawson, M. J. A phase I, double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled, dose escalating study to assess the safety, tolerability, and pharmacokinetics of single and multiple doses of NVB302 administered orally to healthy volunteers. 52nd Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, 2012. Abstract F-1540c (

  149. 149

    Donadio, S., Maffioli, S., Monciardini, P., Sosio, M. & Jabes, D. Sources of novel antibiotics—aside the common roads. Appl. Microbiol. Biotechnol. 88, 1261–1267 (2010).

  150. 150

    Duquesne, S., Destoumieux-Garzon, D., Peduzzi, J. & Rebuffat, S. Microcins, gene-encoded antibacterial peptides from enterobacteria. Nat. Prod. Rep. 24, 708–734 (2007).

  151. 151

    Arnison, P. G. et al. Ribosomally synthesized and post-translationally modified peptide natural products: overview and recommendations for a universal nomenclature. Nat. Prod. Rep. 19 Nov 2012 (doi:10.1039/C2NP20085F).

  152. 152

    Willey, J. M. & van der Donk, W. A. Lantibiotics: peptides of diverse structure and function. Annu. Rev. Microbiol. 61, 477–501 (2007).

  153. 153

    Melby, J. O., Nard, N. J. & Mitchell, D. A. Thiazole/oxazole-modified microcins: complex natural products from ribosomal templates. Curr. Opin. Chem. Biol. 15, 369–378 (2011).

  154. 154

    Li, C. & Kelly, W. L. Recent advances in thiopeptide antibiotic biosynthesis. Nat. Prod. Rep. 27, 153–164 (2010).

  155. 155

    Knappe, T. A., Linne, U., Xie, X. & Marahiel, M. A. The glucagon receptor antagonist BI-32169 constitutes a new class of lasso peptides. FEBS Lett. 584, 785–789 (2010).

  156. 156

    Murphy, K. et al. Genome mining for radical SAM protein determinants reveals multiple sactibiotic-like gene clusters. PLoS ONE 6, e20852 (2011).

  157. 157

    Hou, Y. et al. Structure and biosynthesis of the antibiotic bottromycin d. Org. Lett. 14, 5050–5053 (2012).

  158. 158

    Hsieh, Y. S. et al. Synthesis of the bacteriocin glycopeptide sublancin 168 and S-glycosylated variants. Org. Lett. 14, 1910–1913 (2012).

  159. 159

    Oman, T. J., Boettcher, J. M., Wang, H., Okalibe, X. N. & van der Donk, W. A. Sublancin is not a lantibiotic but an S-linked glycopeptide. Nature Chem. Biol. 7, 78–80 (2011).

  160. 160

    Severinov, K. & Nair, S. K. Microcin C: biosynthesis and mechanisms of bacterial resistance. Future Microbiol. 7, 281–289 (2012).

  161. 161

    Leikoski, N. et al. Highly diverse cyanobactins in strains of the genus Anabaena. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 76, 701–709 (2010).

Download references


Related work in the authors' laboratories is supported by the Irish Government under the National Development Plan; by the Irish Research Council for Science Engineering; by Enterprise Ireland; and by the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) through the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre, University College Cork, Ireland (which is supported by the SFI-funded Centre for Science, Engineering and Technology) and through two Principal Investigator grants, to P.D.C. and to C.H. and R.P.R.

Author information

Correspondence to Paul D. Cotter or R. Paul Ross or Colin Hill.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Related links

Related links


Paul D. Cotter's homepage

R. Paul Ross' homepage

Colin Hill's homepage

Homepage of the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre

Protein Data Bank



Live microorganisms that confer a health benefit on the host when administered in adequate amounts.

Median effective dose

The amount of an antimicrobial that is required to produce a specific effect in half an animal population.


Microbial components of the gastrointestinal tract that have the potential to cause disease.


Pertaining to a microbial strain derivative: identical to the parental strain except for a defined mutation.


A low-molecular-mass compound that binds ferric iron extracellularly to form a stable chelate for transport of iron into the cell.


A large protein that crosses a cellular membrane and acts as a pore through which molecules can diffuse.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Cotter, P., Ross, R. & Hill, C. Bacteriocins — a viable alternative to antibiotics?. Nat Rev Microbiol 11, 95–105 (2013).

Download citation

Further reading