Interactions of a Bacterial RND Transporter with a Transmembrane Small Protein in a Lipid Environment

Structure. 2020 Jun 2;28(6):625-634.e6. doi: 10.1016/j.str.2020.03.013. Epub 2020 Apr 28.


The small protein AcrZ in Escherichia coli interacts with the transmembrane portion of the multidrug efflux pump AcrB and increases resistance of the bacterium to a subset of the antibiotic substrates of that transporter. It is not clear how the physical association of the two proteins selectively changes activity of the pump for defined substrates. Here, we report cryo-EM structures of AcrB and the AcrBZ complex in lipid environments, and comparisons suggest that conformational changes occur in the drug-binding pocket as a result of AcrZ binding. Simulations indicate that cardiolipin preferentially interacts with the AcrBZ complex, due to increased contact surface, and we observe that chloramphenicol sensitivity of bacteria lacking AcrZ is exacerbated when combined with cardiolipin deficiency. Taken together, the data suggest that AcrZ and lipid cooperate to allosterically modulate AcrB activity. This mode of regulation by a small protein and lipid may occur for other membrane proteins.

Keywords: allostery; antibiotic; cryoEM; drug efflux; molecular dynamics; small protein; structural model; transmembrane transport.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Allosteric Regulation
  • Binding Sites
  • Cardiolipins / metabolism*
  • Carrier Proteins / chemistry*
  • Carrier Proteins / genetics
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism*
  • Chloramphenicol / pharmacology
  • Cryoelectron Microscopy
  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial
  • Escherichia coli / drug effects
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism*
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / chemistry*
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / genetics
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / metabolism*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Multidrug Resistance-Associated Proteins / chemistry*
  • Multidrug Resistance-Associated Proteins / metabolism*
  • Multiprotein Complexes / chemistry
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Conformation
  • Substrate Specificity


  • AcrB protein, E coli
  • AcrZ protein, E coli
  • Cardiolipins
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • Multidrug Resistance-Associated Proteins
  • Multiprotein Complexes
  • Chloramphenicol