Mechanistic aspects of lanthipeptide leaders

Annechien Plat, Anneke Kuipers, Rick Rink, Gert N. Moll*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Lanthipeptides are ribosomally synthesized and posttranslationally modified peptides produced by microorganisms. The name lanthipeptide is derived from lanthionine, a thioether-bridged amino acid installed by dedicated modification enzymes. Serines and threonines are dehydrated and subsequently coupled to cysteines, thus forming intramolecular lanthionine rings. A well-known subclass of lanthipeptides are lantibiotics: lanthipeptides with antimicrobial activity. The lantibiotic nisin is applied worldwide in the food industry to prevent food spoilage. This review focuses on lanthipeptide leader peptides, which have a crucial and central role in lanthipeptide biosynthesis. Lanthipeptide leader peptides are present at the N-terminus within precursor lanthipeptides. Intriguingly, a single leader peptide can interact with highly different modifying enzyme(s) (domains) and furthermore induce export out of the cell via a dedicated export protein. Eventually the leader peptide is cleaved off by a leader peptidase, either extracellularly or intracellularly as part of the transporter. Recent exciting mechanistic and engineering studies ignited the unraveling of the fascinating interactions of lanthipeptide leader peptides with the lanthipeptide modification enzymes and transporters. The biosynthesis of at least some lanthipeptides is performed by a highly flexible enzyme system. Novel lantibiotics can be synthesized by fusing lanthipeptide leader peptides to completely different silent lantibiotics obtained by genome mining. Moreover, the fusion of leader peptides to the N-terminus of medically and economically important therapeutic peptides has resulted in lanthioninestabilized therapeutics with enhanced bioavailability and optimized receptor interaction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-96
Number of pages12
JournalCurrent Protein and Peptide Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Cyclase
  • Dehydratase
  • Lanthionine
  • Lanthipeptide
  • Lantibiotic
  • Leader
  • Nisin

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