The multidrug efflux complex AcrAB-TolC confers intrinsic drug resistance in Escherichia coli by pumping antibiotics out of the cell. We determined a low-resolution (20 A) structure of AcrA, the periplasmic component, by electron crystallography. Expressed with a His-tag at its carboxyl-terminus, the protein bound to lipid layers containing the nickel-chelating phospholipid DOGS-NTA. Under the lipid layers, AcrA crystallized in layer group P2(1)22, with a unit cell size of 157 by 95 A and a thickness of about 100 A. The four asymmetric units in the unit cell are organized into what appears to be two rings, each with a central opening of 30 A in diameter. Within each ring, the density can be interpreted as following a pseudo-helical path, approximately 210 A long. This length matches that of monomeric AcrA in solution, previously estimated by light scattering and hydrodynamic measurements. On one side the density has a tubular shape, with a thickness of about 25 A, while on the other side the densities of the upper and lower parts of the pseudo-helical path are fused into a shield.
(C) 2001 Elsevier Science (USA).