Nisin is a class I polycyclic bacteriocin produced by the bacterium Lactococcus lactis, which is used extensively as a food additive to inhibit the growth of foodborne Gram-positive bacteria. Nisin also inhibits growth of Gram-negative bacteria when combined with membrane-disrupting chelators such as citric acid. To gain insight into nisin’s mode of action, we analyzed chemical–genetic interactions and identified nisin-sensitive Escherichia coli strains in the Keio library of knockout mutants. The most sensitive mutants fell into two main groups. The first group accords with the previously proposed mode of action based on studies with Gram-positive bacteria, whereby nisin interacts with factors involved in cell wall, membrane, envelope biogenesis. We identified an additional, novel mode of action for nisin based on the second group of sensitive mutants that involves cell cycle and DNA replication, recombination, and repair. Further analyses supported these two distinct modes of action.
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