The rise in multidrug resistance (MDR) is one of the greatest threats to human health worldwide. MDR in bacterial pathogens is a major challenge in healthcare, as bacterial infections are becoming untreatable by commercially available antibiotics. One of the main causes of MDR is the over-expression of intrinsic and acquired multidrug efflux pumps, belonging to the resistance-nodulation-division (RND) superfamily, which can efflux a wide range of structurally different antibiotics. Besides over-expression, however, recent amino acid substitutions within the pumps themselves-causing an increased drug efflux efficiency-are causing additional worry. In this review, we take a closer look at clinically, environmentally and laboratory-evolved Gram-negative bacterial strains and their decreased drug sensitivity as a result of mutations directly in the RND-type pumps themselves (from Escherichia coli, Salmonella enterica, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Acinetobacter baumannii and Legionella pneumophila). We also focus on the evolution of the efflux pumps by comparing hundreds of efflux pumps to determine where conservation is concentrated and where differences in amino acids can shed light on the broad and even broadening drug recognition. Knowledge of conservation, as well as of novel gain-of-function efflux pump mutations, is essential for the development of novel antibiotics and efflux pump inhibitors.
Keywords: RND; adaptation; efflux pump; evolution; multidrug resistance; pathogens.