Antimicrobial Peptides Produced by Selective Pressure Incorporation of Non-canonical Amino Acids

Jessica H Nickling, Tobias Baumann*, Franz-Josef Schmitt, Maike Bartholomae, Oscar P Kuipers, Thomas Friedrich, Nediljko Budisa

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
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Nature has a variety of possibilities to create new protein functions by modifying the sequence of the individual amino acid building blocks. However, all variations are based on the 20 canonical amino acids (cAAs). As a way to introduce additional physicochemical properties into polypeptides, the incorporation of non-canonical amino acids (ncAAs) is increasingly used in protein engineering. Due to their relatively short length, the modification of ribosomally synthesized and post-translationally modified peptides by ncAAs is particularly attractive. New functionalities and chemical handles can be generated by specific modifications of individual residues. The selective pressure incorporation (SPI) method utilizes auxotrophic host strains that are deprived of an essential amino acid in chemically defined growth media. Several structurally and chemically similar amino acid analogs can then be activated by the corresponding aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase and provide residue-specific cAA(s) → ncAA(s) substitutions in the target peptide or protein sequence. Although, in the context of the SPI method, ncAAs are also incorporated into the host proteome during the phase of recombinant gene expression, the majority of the cell's resources are assigned to the expression of the target gene. This enables efficient residue-specific incorporation of ncAAs often accompanied with high amounts of modified target. The presented work describes the in vivo incorporation of six proline analogs into the antimicrobial peptide nisin, a lantibiotic naturally produced by Lactococcus lactis. Antimicrobial properties of nisin can be changed and further expanded during its fermentation and expression in auxotrophic Escherichia coli strains in defined growth media. Thereby, the effects of residue-specific replacement of cAAs with ncAAs can deliver changes in antimicrobial activity and specificity. Antimicrobial activity assays and fluorescence microscopy are used to test the new nisin variants for growth inhibition of a Gram-positive Lactococcus lactis indicator strain. Mass spectroscopy is used to confirm ncAA incorporation in bioactive nisin variants.

Original languageEnglish
Article number57551
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of visualized experiments : JoVE
Issue number135
Publication statusPublished - 4-May-2018


  • nisin
  • non-canonical amino acids
  • ncAAs
  • Lactococcus lactis
  • Bioactivity mapping

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