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Chemical and genetic characterization of bacteriocins: antimicrobial peptides for food safety



Antimicrobial peptides are produced across all domains of life. Among these diverse compounds, those produced by bacteria have been most successfully applied as agents of biocontrol in food and agriculture. Bacteriocins are ribosomally synthesized, proteinaceous compounds that inhibit the growth of closely related bacteria. Even within the subcategory of bacteriocins, the peptides vary significantly in terms of the gene cluster responsible for expression, and chemical and structural composition. The polycistronic gene cluster generally includes a structural gene and various combinations of immunity, secretion, and regulatory genes and modifying enzymes. Chemical variation can exist in amino acid identity, chain length, secondary and tertiary structural features, as well as specificity of active sites. This diversity posits bacteriocins as potential antimicrobial agents with a range of functions and applications. Those produced by food-grade bacteria and applied in normally occurring concentrations can be used as GRAS-status food additives. However, successful application requires thorough characterization. © 2013 Society of Chemical Industry