In Escherichia coli, the role of RND-type drug transporters other than the major efflux pump AcrB has largely remained undeciphered (particularly in multidrug resistant pathogens), because genetic engineering in such isolates is challenging. The present study aimed to explore the capability of the AcrB homolog MdtF to contribute to the extrusion of noxious compounds and to multidrug resistance in an E. coli clinical isolate with demonstrated expression of this efflux pump. An mdtF/acrB double-knockout was engineered, and susceptibility changes with drugs from various classes were determined in comparison to the parental strain and its acrB and tolC single-knockout mutants. The potential of MdtF to participate in the export of agents with different physicochemical properties was additionally assessed using accumulation and real-time efflux assays with several fluorescent dyes. The results show that there was limited impact to the multidrug resistant phenotype in the tested E. coli strain, while the RND-type transporter remarkably contributes to the efflux of all tested dyes. This should be considered when evaluating the efflux phenotype of clinical isolates via dye accumulation assays. Furthermore, the promiscuity of MdtF should be taken into account when developing new antibiotic agents.
Keywords: MdtF (YhiV); RND-type efflux pump; dye accumulation; multidrug resistance; real-time efflux.