Nisin, a 34-residue peptide bacteriocin, contains the less common amino acids lanthionine, β-methyl-lanthionine, dehydroalanine (Dha), and dehydrobutyrine (Dhb). Several chemically modified nisin A species were purified by reverse-phase HPLC and characterized by two-dimensional NMR and electrospray mass spectrometry. Five constituents, [2-hydroxy-Ala5]nisin, [Ile4-amide,pyruvyl-Leu6]des-Dha5-nisin, [Met(O)21]nisin, [Ser33]nisin, and nisin-(1–32)-peptide amide, were found in a commercial nisin sample. A further species, [2-hydroxy-Ala5]nisin-(1–32)-peptide amide, was obtained by freeze drying an acidic nisin solution. These compounds are formed by chemical modification of nisin: the addition of a water molecule to the dehydroalanine residues, which can lead to the cleavage of the polypeptide chain, or the oxidation of methionine residues.
The 2-hydroxyalanine-containing products have a limited stability; they are spontaneously converted into the corresponding des-dehydroalanine derivatives. The growth-inhibiting activity of the modified nisins towards different bacteria was determined. The 2-hydroxyalanine-containing species and the des-dehydroalanine derivative show a strong reduction in biological activity as compared to native nisin. [Met(O)21]nisin and [Ser33]nisin show moderate or no reduction in biological activity.