Structure, function, and biology of the Enterococcus faecalis cytolysin

Toxins (Basel). 2013 Apr 29;5(5):895-911. doi: 10.3390/toxins5050895.


Enterococcus faecalis is a Gram-positive commensal member of the gut microbiota of a wide range of organisms. With the advent of antibiotic therapy, it has emerged as a multidrug resistant, hospital-acquired pathogen. Highly virulent strains of E. faecalis express a pore-forming exotoxin, called cytolysin, which lyses both bacterial and eukaryotic cells in response to quorum signals. Originally described in the 1930s, the cytolysin is a member of a large class of lanthionine-containing bacteriocins produced by Gram-positive bacteria. While the cytolysin shares some core features with other lantibiotics, it possesses unique characteristics as well. The current understanding of cytolysin biosynthesis, structure/function relationships, and contribution to the biology of E. faecalis are reviewed, and opportunities for using emerging technologies to advance this understanding are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteriocins* / chemistry
  • Bacteriocins* / metabolism
  • Cross Infection / microbiology
  • Enterococcus faecalis* / metabolism
  • Enterococcus faecalis* / pathogenicity
  • Gram-Positive Bacterial Infections / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Molecular Structure


  • Bacteriocins
  • cytolysin, Enterococcus faecalis