A bacterial antibiotic-resistance gene that complements the human multidrug-resistance P-glycoprotein gene

Nature. 1998 Jan 15;391(6664):291-5. doi: 10.1038/34669.


Bacteria have developed many fascinating antibiotic-resistance mechanisms. A protein in Lactococcus lactis, LmrA, mediates antibiotic resistance by extruding amphiphilic compounds from the inner leaflet of the cytoplasmic membrane. Unlike other known bacterial multidrug-resistance proteins, LmrA is an ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporter. The human multidrug-resistance P-glycoprotein, encoded by the MDR1 gene, is also an ABC transporter, overexpression of which is one of the principal causes of resistance of human cancers to chemotherapy. We expressed lmrA in human lung fibroblast cells. Surprisingly, LmrA was targeted to the plasma membrane and conferred typical multidrug resistance on these human cells. The pharmacological characteristics of LmrA and P-glycoprotein-expressing lung fibroblasts were very similar, and the affinities of both proteins for vinblastine and magnesium-ATP were indistinguishable. Blockers of P-glycoprotein-mediated multidrug resistance also inhibited LmrA-dependent drug resistance. Kinetic analysis of drug dissociation from LmrA expressed in plasma membranes of insect cells revealed the presence of two allosterically linked drug-binding sites indistinguishable from those of P-glycoprotein. These findings have implications for the reversal of antibiotic resistance in pathogenic microorganisms. Taken together, they demonstrate that bacterial LmrA and human P-glycoprotein are functionally interchangeable and that this type of multidrug-resistance efflux pump is conserved from bacteria to man.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B, Member 1 / genetics*
  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters / genetics*
  • Bacterial Proteins*
  • Biological Transport
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial / genetics*
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple / genetics*
  • Genetic Complementation Test
  • Humans
  • Indolizines / pharmacology
  • Lung / cytology
  • Multidrug Resistance-Associated Proteins*
  • Nicardipine / pharmacology
  • Phenethylamines / pharmacology
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Recombinant Proteins / genetics
  • Transfection
  • Vinblastine / metabolism


  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B, Member 1
  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Indolizines
  • LmrA protein, Lactococcus lactis
  • Multidrug Resistance-Associated Proteins
  • Phenethylamines
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Vinblastine
  • Nicardipine
  • fantofarone