Visualization and Analysis of the Dynamic Assembly of a Heterologous Lantibiotic Biosynthesis Complex in Bacillus subtilis

Jingqi Chen, Auke J van Heel, Oscar P Kuipers*

*Corresponding author for this work

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A membrane-associated lanthipeptide synthetase complex, consisting of the dehydratase NisB, the cyclase NisC, and the ABC transporter NisT, has been described for nisin biosynthesis in the coccoid bacterium Lactococcus lactis. Here, we used advanced fluorescence microscopy to visualize the functional nisin biosynthesis machinery in rod-shaped cells and analyzed its spatial distribution and dynamics employing a platform we developed for heterologous production of nisin in Bacillus subtilis. We observed that NisT, as well as NisB and NisC, were all distributed in a punctate pattern along the cell periphery, opposed to the situation in coccoid cells. NisBTC proteins were found to be highly colocalized, being visualized at the same spots by dual fluorescence microscopy. In conjunction with the successful isolation of the biosynthetic complex NisBTC from the cell membrane, this corroborated that the visual bright foci were the sites for nisin maturation and transportation. A strategy of differential timing of expression was employed to demonstrate the in vivo dynamic assembly of NisBTC, revealing the recruitment by NisT of NisBC to the membrane. Additionally, by use of mutated proteins, the nucleotide binding domain (NBD) of NisT was found to function as a membrane anchor for NisB and/or NisC. We also show that the nisin biosynthesis sites are static and likely associated with proteins residing in lipid rafts. Based on these data, we propose a model for a three-phase production of modified precursor nisin in rod-shaped bacteria, presenting the assembly dynamics of NisBTC and emphasizing the crucial role of NisBC, next to NisT, in the process of precursor nisin translocation. IMPORTANCE Nisin is a model antimicrobial peptide for LanBC-modified lantibiotics that are modified and transported by a membrane synthetase complex. Although the subcellular localization and the assembly process of such a complex in L. lactis have been described in our recent work (J. Chen, A. J. van Heel, and O. P. Kuipers, mBio 11:e02825-20, 2020,, it proved difficult to gain a more detailed insight into the exact LanBTC assembly in the L. lactis system. Rod-shaped cells, especially B. subtilis, are better suited to study the assembly dynamics of these protein complexes. In this work, we present evidence for the existence of the lanthipeptide biosynthetic complex by visualizing and isolating the machinery in vivo. The dynamic behavior of the modification machinery and the transporter within the cells was characterized in depth, revealing the dependence of first LanB and LanC on each other and subsequent recruitment of them by LanT during the machinery assembly. Importantly, the elucidation of the dynamic assembly of the complex will facilitate future studies of lanthipeptide transport mechanisms and the structural characterization of the complete complex.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere01219-21
Number of pages20
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug-2021


  • Bacillus subtilis
  • nisin
  • lantibiotic biosynthesis machinery
  • subcellular localization
  • assembly dynamics
  • fluorescence microscopy

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