Cells from all domains of life encode energy-dependent trans-membrane transporters that can expel harmful substances including clinically applied therapeutic agents. As a collective body, these transporters perform as a super-system that confers tolerance to an enormous range of harmful compounds and consequently aid survival in hazardous environments. In the Gram-negative bacteria, some of these transporters serve as energy-transducing components of tripartite assemblies that actively efflux drugs and other harmful compounds, as well as deliver virulence agents across the entire cell envelope. We draw together recent structural and functional data to present the current models for the transport mechanisms for the main classes of multi-drug transporters and their higher-order assemblies.
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