In the last decade, a variety of ribosomally synthesized antimicrobial peptides, or bacteriocins, produced by lactic acid bacteria have been identified and characterized. As a result of these studies, insight has been gained into various fundamental aspects of biology and biochemistry such as bacteriocin processing and secretion, mechanisms of cell immunity, and structure-function relationships. In parallel, there has been a growing awareness that bacteriocins may be developed into useful antimicrobial food additives. Class IIa bacteriocins can be considered as the major subgroup of bacteriocins from lactic acid bacteria, not only because of their large number, but also because of their significant biological activities and potential applications. The present review provides an overview of the knowledge available for class IIa bacteriocins and discusses common features and recent findings concerning these substances. The activity and potential food applications of class IIa bacteriocins are a major focus of this review.
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