Substrate-bound and substrate-free outward-facing structures of a multidrug ABC exporter

Sci Adv. 2022 Jan 28;8(4):eabg9215. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.abg9215. Epub 2022 Jan 26.


Multidrug ABC transporters translocate drugs across membranes by a mechanism for which the molecular features of drug release are so far unknown. Here, we resolved three ATP-Mg2+-bound outward-facing conformations of the Bacillus subtilis (homodimeric) BmrA by x-ray crystallography and single-particle cryo-electron microscopy (EM) in detergent solution, one of them with rhodamine 6G (R6G), a substrate exported by BmrA when overexpressed in B. subtilis. Two R6G molecules bind to the drug-binding cavity at the level of the outer leaflet, between transmembrane (TM) helices 1-2 of one monomer and TM5'-6' of the other. They induce a rearrangement of TM1-2, highlighting a local flexibility that we confirmed by hydrogen/deuterium exchange and molecular dynamics simulations. In the absence of R6G, simulations show a fast postrelease occlusion of the cavity driven by hydrophobicity, while when present, R6G can move within the cavity, maintaining it open.