Nisin A is a pentacyclic peptide antibiotic produced by Lactococcus lactis. The leader peptide of prenisin keeps nisin inactive and has a role in inducing NisB- and NisC-catalyzed modifications of the propeptide and NisT-mediated export. The highly specific NisP cleaves off the leader peptide from fully modified and exported prenisin. We present here a detailed mutagenesis analysis of the nisin leader peptide. For alternative cleavage, we successfully introduced a putative NisP autocleavage site and sites for thrombin, enterokinase, Glu-C, and factor Xa in the C-terminal part of the leader peptide. Replacing residue F-18 with Trp or Thr strongly reduced production. On the other hand, D-19A, F-18H, F-18M, L-16D, L-16K, and L-16A enhanced production. Substitutions within and outside the FNLD box enhanced or reduced the transport efficiency. None of the above substitutions nor even an internal 6His tag from positions -13 to -8 had any effect on the capacity of the leader peptide to induce NisB and NisC modifications. Therefore, these data demonstrate a large mutational freedom. However, simultaneous replacement of the FNLD amino acids by four alanines strongly reduced export and even led to a complete loss of the capacity to induce modifications. Reducing the leader peptide to MSTKDFNLDLR led to 3- or 4-fold dehydration. Taken together, the FNLD box is crucial for inducing posttranslational modifications.
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