Mechanisms of RND multidrug efflux pumps

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2009 May;1794(5):769-81. doi: 10.1016/j.bbapap.2008.10.004. Epub 2008 Nov 3.


RND (Resistance-Nodulation-Division) family transporters are widespread especially among Gram-negative bacteria, and catalyze the active efflux of many antibiotics and chemotherapeutic agents. They have very large periplasmic domains, and form tripartite complexes with outer membrane channels and periplasmic adaptor proteins. AcrAB-TolC complex of Escherichia coli, which pumps out a very wide range of drugs, has been studied most intensively. Early studies showed that the transporter captures even those substrates that cannot permeate across the cytoplasmic membrane, such as dianionic beta-lactams, suggesting that the capture can occur from the periplasm. It was also suggested that the capture occurs from the cytoplasmic membrane/periplasm interface, because most substrates contain a sizable hydrophobic domain; however, this may simply be a reflection of the nature of the binding site within AcrB. Genetic studies of chimeric transporters showed that much of the substrate specificity is determined by their periplasmic domains. Biochemical studies with intact cells recently led to the determination of the kinetic constants of AcrB for some beta-lactams, and the result confirms the old prediction that AcrB is a rather slow pump. Reconstitution of purified AcrB and its relatives showed that the pump is a drug/proton antiporter, that AcrA strongly stimulates the activity of the pump, and that AcrB seems to have a highest affinity for conjugated bile salts. Structural study with mutants of the network of charged residues in the transmembrane domain showed that protonation here produced a far-reaching conformational change, which was found to be present in one of the protomers in the asymmetric crystal structure of the wild-type AcrB. The functional rotatory hypothesis then predicts that the drug bound in the periplasmic domain is extruded through this conformational change initiated by the protonation of one of the residues in the aforementioned network, an idea that was recently supported by disulfide cross-linking as well as by the behavior of linked AcrB protomers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / physiology
  • Carrier Proteins / physiology
  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial / physiology*
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / genetics
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / physiology*
  • Kinetics
  • Models, Molecular
  • Multidrug Resistance-Associated Proteins / genetics
  • Multidrug Resistance-Associated Proteins / physiology*
  • Mutagenesis, Site-Directed
  • Mutation
  • Phospholipids / metabolism


  • AcrAB-TolC protein, Salmonella enterica
  • AcrB protein, E coli
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • Multidrug Resistance-Associated Proteins
  • Phospholipids