Lactobacilli are common microorganisms in diverse vegetables and meat products and several of these are also indigenous inhabitants in the gastro-intestinal (GI) tract of humans and animals where they are believed to have health promoting effects on the host. One of the highly appreciated probiotic effects is their ability to inhibit the growth of pathogens by producing antimicrobial peptides, so-called bacteriocins. Production of some bacteriocins has been shown to be strictly regulated through a quorum-sensing based mechanism mediated by a secreted peptide-pheromone (also called induction peptide; IP), a membrane-located sensor (histidine protein kinase; HPK) and a cytoplasmic response regulator (RR). The interaction between an IP and its sensor, which is highly specific, leads to activation of the cognate RR which in turn binds to regulated promoters and activates gene expression. The HPKs and RRs are built up by conserved modules, and the signalling between them within a network is efficient and directional, and can easily be activated by exogenously added synthetic IPs. Consequently, components from such regulatory networks have successfully been exploited in construction of a number of inducible gene expression systems. In this review, we discuss some well-characterised quorum sensing networks involved in bacteriocin production in lactobacilli, with special focus on the use of the regulatory components in gene expression and on lactobacilli as potential delivery vehicle for therapeutic and vaccine purposes.
Keywords: Lactic acid bacteria, lactobacilli, pSIP vectors, bacteriocins, gene expression, protein delivery
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