Porins and small-molecule translocation across the outer membrane of Gram-negative bacteria

Nat Rev Microbiol. 2020 Mar;18(3):164-176. doi: 10.1038/s41579-019-0294-2. Epub 2019 Dec 2.


Gram-negative bacteria and their complex cell envelope, which comprises an outer membrane and an inner membrane, are an important and attractive system for studying the translocation of small molecules across biological membranes. In the outer membrane of Enterobacteriaceae, trimeric porins control the cellular uptake of small molecules, including nutrients and antibacterial agents. The relatively slow porin-mediated passive uptake across the outer membrane and active efflux via efflux pumps in the inner membrane creates a permeability barrier. The synergistic action of outer membrane permeability, efflux pump activities and enzymatic degradation efficiently reduces the intracellular concentrations of small molecules and contributes to the emergence of antibiotic resistance. In this Review, we discuss recent advances in our understanding of the molecular and functional roles of general porins in small-molecule translocation in Enterobacteriaceae and consider the crucial contribution of porins in antibiotic resistance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / metabolism
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Biological Transport
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism*
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial
  • Enterobacteriaceae / drug effects
  • Enterobacteriaceae / enzymology*
  • Enterobacteriaceae / metabolism*
  • Porins / metabolism*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins
  • Porins