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Polypeptide antibiotics - Lantibiotics

Drugs & Medication

Polypeptide antibiotics - Lantibiotics

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Lantibiotics are a class of peptide antibiotics that contain polycyclic thioether amino acids as well as the unsaturated amino acids dehydroalanine and 2-aminoisobutyric acid. These characteristic cyclic thioether amino acids are composed of either lanthionine or methyllanthionine. Lantibiotics are produced by a large number of Gram positive bacteria such as Streptococcus and Streptomyces to attack other gram positive bacteria and as such they are considered a member of the bacteriocins.



[1]The name Lantibiotics was introduced in 1988 as an abbreviation for "Lanthionine-containing peptide antibiotics". The first structures of these antimicrobial agents were first produced by pioneering work by Gross and Morell in the late sixties and early seventies, thus marking the formal intorduction of Lantibiotics. Since then Lantibiotics such as Nisin have been used auspiciously for food preservation and have yet to encounter significant bacterial resistance. These attributes of lantibiotics have lead to more detailed research into their structures and biosynthetic pathways.


  • Type A Lantibiotics are long flexible molecules - eg Nisin, subtilin, epidermin. Subgroup AI includes Mutacin II, subgroup AII includes Mutacin I & III.
  • Type B Lantibiotics are globular - eg mersacidin, actagardin, cinnamycin.

See Brotz and Sahl. JAC (2000) 46, 1-6 for discussion of mechanism of action. (Type A kill rapidly by pore formation, type B inhibit peptidoglycan biosynthesis)

Mechanism of action

Lantibiotics show substantial specificity for some components (eg lipid II) of bacterial cell membranes especially of Gram positive bacteria. They are active in very low concentrations.


[2]Lantibiotics are produced by Gram-positive bacteria and show strong antimicrobial action towards a wide range of other Gram-positive bacteria. As such they have become attractive candidates for use in food preservation (by inhibiting pathogens that cause food spoilage) and the pharmaceutical industry (to prevent or fight infections in humans or animals). See C. van Kraaij et al, Nat. Prod. Rep. (1999), 16, 583 - 584 for more detailed disccusion of the pharmaceutical application of lantibiotics.


  • 1. W. van der Donk et al. Chem. Rev. (2005) 105, 633 - 683
  • 2. C. van Kraaij et al, Nat. Prod. Rep. (1999), 16, 575 - 587.

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