Conserved small protein associates with the multidrug efflux pump AcrB and differentially affects antibiotic resistance
The AcrAB–TolC multidrug efflux pump confers resistance to a wide variety of antibiotics and other compounds in Escherichia coli. Here we show that AcrZ (formerly named YbhT), a 49-amino-acid inner membrane protein, associates with the AcrAB-TolC complex. Co-purification of AcrZ with AcrB, in the absence of both AcrA and TolC, two-hybrid assays and suppressor mutations indicate that this interaction occurs through the inner membrane protein AcrB. The highly conserved acrZ gene is coregulated with acrAB through induction by the MarA, Rob, and SoxS transcription regulators. In addition, mutants lacking AcrZ are sensitive to many, but not all, of the antibiotics transported by AcrAB–TolC. This differential antibiotic sensitivity suggests that AcrZ may enhance the ability of the AcrAB–TolC pump to export certain classes of substrates.