Bacteriocins are prokaryotic proteins or peptides with antimicrobial activity. Most of them exhibit a broad spectrum of activity, inhibiting micro-organisms belonging to different genera and species, including many bacterial pathogens which cause human, animal or plant infections. Therefore, these substances have potential biotechnological applications in either food preservation or prevention and control of bacterial infectious diseases. However, there is concern that continuous exposure of bacteria to bacteriocins may select cells resistant to them, as observed for conventional antimicrobials. Based on the models already investigated, bacteriocin resistance may be either innate or acquired and seems to be a complex phenomenon, arising at different frequencies (generally from 10 to 10) and by different mechanisms, even amongst strains of the same bacterial species. In the present review, we discuss the prevalence, development and molecular mechanisms involved in resistance to bacteriocins produced by Gram-positive bacteria. These mechanisms generally involve changes in the bacterial cell envelope, which result in (i) reduction or loss of bacteriocin binding or insertion, (ii) bacteriocin sequestering, (iii) bacteriocin efflux pumping (export) and (iv) bacteriocin degradation, amongst others. Strategies that can be used to overcome this resistance are also addressed.


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