Lactoferricin B inhibits bacterial macromolecular synthesis in Escherichia coli and Bacillus subtilis

FEMS Microbiol Lett. 2004 Aug 15;237(2):377-84. doi: 10.1016/j.femsle.2004.07.001.


Most antimicrobial peptides have an amphipathic, cationic structure, and an effect on the cytoplasmic membrane of susceptible bacteria has been postulated as the main mode of action. Other mechanisms have been reported, including inhibition of cellular functions by binding to DNA, RNA and proteins, and the inhibition of DNA and/or protein synthesis. Lactoferricin B (Lfcin B), a cationic peptide derived from bovine lactoferrin, exerts slow inhibitory and bactericidal activity and does not lyse susceptible bacteria, indicating a possible intracellular target. In the present study incorporation of radioactive precursors into DNA, RNA and proteins was used to demonstrate effects of Lfcin B on macromolecular synthesis in bacteria. In Escherichia coli UC 6782, Lfcin B induces an initial increase in protein and RNA synthesis and a decrease in DNA synthesis. After 10 min, the DNA-synthesis increases while protein and RNA-synthesis decreases significantly. In Bacillus subtilis, however, all synthesis of macromolecules is inhibited for at least 20 min. After 20 min RNA-synthesis increases. The results presented here show that Lfcin B at concentrations not sufficient to kill bacterial cells inhibits incorporation of radioactive precursors into macromolecules in both Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / metabolism
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Bacillus subtilis / drug effects*
  • Bacillus subtilis / metabolism
  • Bacterial Proteins / biosynthesis
  • DNA, Bacterial / biosynthesis
  • DNA, Bacterial / metabolism
  • Escherichia coli / cytology
  • Escherichia coli / drug effects*
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism
  • Lactoferrin / analogs & derivatives*
  • Lactoferrin / metabolism
  • Lactoferrin / pharmacology*
  • RNA, Bacterial / biosynthesis


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • DNA, Bacterial
  • RNA, Bacterial
  • lactoferricin B
  • Lactoferrin