Chemists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have uncovered the molecular activity of an enzyme responsible for naturally turning a small protein into a potent antibiotic known as a lantibiotic.
The finding is described in the Jan. 30 issue of the journal Science. The research details how the enzyme performs two biosynthetic reactions that lead to the formation of fused cyclic structures required for antimicrobial activity. The discovery unlocks a door that could lead to a new line of antibiotic compounds based on nature’s machinery, said Wilfred A. van der Donk, a professor of chemistry at Illinois.
The work was done using lacticin 481, a lantibiotic produced by one of several strains of Lactococcus lactis, a bacterium used in cheese production. Other lantibiotics are used to preserve other dairy products and canned vegetables. The lantibiotic nisin has been used for more than 50 years as an alternative to chemicals in food preservation in more than 40 countries without the development of significant antibiotic resistance.
Jim Barlow | UIUC
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