Insights into the mode of action of the two-peptide lantibiotic lichenicidin

Joana C. Barbosa, Sónia Gonçalves, Marcin Makowski, Ítala C. Silva, Tânia Caetano, Tanja Schneider, Eva Mösker, Roderich D. Süssmuth, Nuno C. Santos, Sónia Mendo*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Lantibiotics are promising candidates to address the worldwide problem of antibiotic resistance. They belong to a class of natural compounds exhibiting strong activity against clinically relevant Gram-positive bacterial strains, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant Enterococci (VRE). Lichenicidin is a class II two-peptide lantibiotic. The presence of the two mature peptides, Bliα and Bliβ, is necessary for full activity against target bacteria. This work aims at clarifying the synergistic activity of both peptides in their interaction with the target membranes. The effect of lichenicidin was tested against S. aureus cells and large unilamellar vesicles. Lichenicidin increases the net surface charge of S. aureus, as shown by zeta- potential measurements, without reaching electroneutralization. In addition, lichenicidin causes cell surface perturbations that culminate in the leakage of its internal contents, as observed by atomic force microscopy. Bliα seems to have low affinity for S. aureus, however, it contributes to increase the affinity of Bliβ, because together they present higher affinity than separately. In contrast, Bliα seems to provide an anchoring site for lichenicidin in lipid II-containing membranes. Interestingly, Bliβ alone can induce high levels of membrane leakage, but this effect appears to be faster in the presence of Bliα. Based on this information, we propose a mechanism of action of lichenicidin.
Original languageEnglish
Article number112308
Number of pages11
JournalColloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022


  • Lanthipeptides
  • Zeta-potential
  • Atomic force microscopy
  • Leakage assays
  • Lipid II
  • Lichenicidin


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