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Open Access Research article

Relatedness between the two-component lantibiotics lacticin 3147 and staphylococcin C55 based on structure, genetics and biological activity

Eileen B O'Connor123, Paul D Cotter2, Paula O'Connor1, Orla O'Sullivan1, John R Tagg4, R Paul Ross13* and Colin Hill23

Author Affiliations

1 Moorepark Food Research Centre, Teagasc, Fermoy, Co. Cork, Ireland

2 Department of Microbiology, National University of Ireland, Cork, Ireland

3 Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre, Cork, Ireland

4 Department of Microbiology, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

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BMC Microbiology 2007, 7:24  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-7-24

Published: 2 April 2007

Abstract

Background

Two component lantibiotics, such as the plasmid-encoded lacticin 3147 produced by Lactococcus lactis DPC3147 and staphylococcin C55 produced by Staphylococcus aureus C55, represent an emerging subgroup of bacteriocins. These two bacteriocins are particularly closely related, exhibiting 86% (LtnA1 and C55α) and 55% (LtnA2 and C55β) identity in their component peptides. The aim of this study was to investigate, for the first time for any two component bacteriocins, the significance of the relatedness between these two systems.

Results

So close is this relatedness that the hybrid peptide pairs LtnA1:C55β and C55α:LtnA2 were found to have activities in the single nanomolar range, comparing well with the native pairings. To determine whether this flexibility extended to the associated post-translational modification/processing machinery, the staphylococcin C55 structural genes were directly substituted for their lacticin 3147 counterparts in the ltn operon on the large conjugative lactococcal plasmid pMRC01. It was established that the lacticin LtnA1 post-translational and processing machinery could produce functionally active C55α, but not C55β. In order to investigate in closer detail the significance of the differences between LtnA1 and C55α, three residues in LtnA1 were replaced with the equivalent residues in C55α. Surprisingly, one such mutant LtnA1-Leu21Ala was not produced. This may be significant given the positioning of this residue in a putative lipid II binding loop.

Conclusion

It is apparent, despite sharing striking similarities in terms of structure and activity, that these two complex bacteriocins display some highly dedicated features particular to either system.