Bacteriocins: safe, natural antimicrobials for food preservation

Int J Food Microbiol. 2001 Dec 4;71(1):1-20. doi: 10.1016/s0168-1605(01)00560-8.


Bacteriocins are antibacterial proteins produced by bacteria that kill or inhibit the growth of other bacteria. Many lactic acid bacteria (LAB) produce a high diversity of different bacteriocins. Though these bacteriocins are produced by LAB found in numerous fermented and non-fermented foods, nisin is currently the only bacteriocin widely used as a food preservative. Many bacteriocins have been characterized biochemically and genetically, and though there is a basic understanding of their structure-function, biosynthesis, and mode of action, many aspects of these compounds are still unknown. This article gives an overview of bacteriocin applications, and differentiates bacteriocins from antibiotics. A comparison of the synthesis. mode of action, resistance and safety of the two types of molecules is covered. Toxicity data exist for only a few bacteriocins, but research and their long-time intentional use strongly suggest that bacteriocins can be safely used.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / biosynthesis
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / chemistry
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / classification
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Bacteriocins / biosynthesis
  • Bacteriocins / chemistry
  • Bacteriocins / classification
  • Bacteriocins / pharmacology*
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial
  • Food Preservation / methods*
  • Lactobacillus / metabolism*
  • Nisin / biosynthesis
  • Nisin / chemistry
  • Nisin / classification
  • Nisin / pharmacology
  • Safety
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Bacteriocins
  • Nisin