• Bacillus ;
  • cytotoxicity;
  • food safety;
  • genotyping



The aim of this study was to elucidate the prevalence of lichenysin production in Bacillus licheniformis and to see whether this feature was restricted to certain genotypes. Secondly, we wanted to see whether cytotoxicity reflected the measured levels of lichenysin.

Methods and Results

Fifty-three genotyped strains of B. licheniformis, representing a wide variety of sources, were included. lchAA gene fragments were detected in all strains by polymerase chain reaction (PCR). All 53 strains produced lichenysins with four molecular masses as confirmed by LC-MS/MS (liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry) analysis. The amounts of lichenysin varied more than two orders of magnitude between strains and were irrespective of genotype. Finally, there was a strong association between lichenysin concentrations and toxicity towards boar spermatozoa, erythrocytes and Vero cells.


Lichenysin synthesis was universal among the 53 B. licheniformis strains examined. The quantities varied considerably between strains, but were not specifically associated with genotype. Cytotoxicity was evident at lichenysin concentrations above 10 μg ml−1, which is in accordance with previous studies.

Significance and Impact of Study

This study might be of interest to those working on B. licheniformis for commercial use as well as for authorities who make risk assessments of B. licheniformis when used as a food and feed additive.