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Bacteriocins of Gram-negative bacteria are typically multi-domain proteins that target and kill bacteria of the same or closely related species. There is increasing interest in protein bacteriocin import; from a fundamental perspective to understand how folded proteins are imported into bacteria and from an applications perspective as species-specific antibiotics to combat multidrug resistant bacteria. In order to translocate across the cell envelope and cause cell death, protein bacteriocins hijack nutrient uptake pathways. Their import is energized by parasitizing intermembrane protein complexes coupled to the proton motive force, which delivers a toxic domain into the cell. A plethora of genetic, structural, biochemical, and biophysical methods have been applied to find cell envelope components involved in bacteriocin import since their discovery almost a century ago. Here, we review the various approaches that now exist for investigating how protein bacteriocins translocate into Gram-negative bacteria and highlight areas of research that will need methodological innovations to fully understand this process. We also highlight recent studies demonstrating how bacteriocins can be used to probe organization and architecture of the Gram-negative cell envelope itself.

Original publication




Journal article


Front Microbiol

Publication Date





Gram-negative bacteria, bacteriocin, cell envelope, import, methods