Arguably, bacteriocins deployed in warfare among related bacteria are among the most diverse proteinacous compounds with respect to structure and mode of action. Identification of the first prokaryotic member of the so-called MMBLs (monocot mannose-binding lectins) or GNA (Galanthus nivalis agglutinin) lectin family and discovery of its genus-specific killer activity in the Gram-negative bacteria Pseudomonas and Xanthomonas has added yet another kind of toxin to this group of allelopathic molecules. This novel feature is reminiscent of the protective function, on the basis of antifungal, insecticidal, nematicidal or antiviral activity, assigned to or proposed for several of the eukaryotic MMBL proteins that are ubiquitously distributed among monocot plants, but also occur in some other plants, fish, sponges, amoebae and fungi. Direct bactericidal activity can also be effected by a C-type lectin, but this is a mammalian protein that limits mucosal colonization by Gram-positive bacteria. The presence of two divergent MMBL domains in the novel bacteriocins raises questions about task distribution between modules and the possible role of carbohydrate binding in the specificity of target strain recognition and killing. Notably, bacteriocin activity was also demonstrated for a hybrid MMBL protein with an accessory protease-like domain. This association with one or more additional modules, often with predicted peptide-hydrolysing or -binding activity, suggests that additional bacteriotoxic proteins may be found among the diverse chimaeric MMBL proteins encoded in prokaryotic genomes. A phylogenetic survey of the bacterial MMBL modules reveals a mosaic pattern of strongly diverged sequences, mainly occurring in soil-dwelling and rhizosphere bacteria, which may reflect a trans-kingdom acquisition of the ancestral genes.

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