Drug transport mechanism of the AcrB efflux pump
In Gram-negative bacteria such as Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, tripartite multidrug efflux systems extrude cytotoxic substances from the cell directly into the medium bypassing periplasm and the outer membrane. In E. coli, the tripartite efflux system AcrA/AcrB/TolC is the pump that extrudes multiple antibiotics, dyes, bile salts and detergents. The inner membrane component AcrB, a member of the Resistance Nodulation cell Division (RND) family, is the major site for substrate recognition and energy transduction of the entire tripartite system. The drug/proton antiport processes in this secondary transporter are suggested to be spatially separated, a feature frequently observed for primary transporters like membrane-bound ATPases. The recently elucidated asymmetric structure of the AcrB trimer reveals three different monomer conformations proposed to represent consecutive states in a directional transport cycle. Each monomer shows a distinct tunnel system with entrances located at the boundary of the outer leaflet of the inner membrane and the periplasm through the periplasmic porter (pore) domain towards the funnel of the trimer and TolC. In one monomer a hydrophobic pocket is present which has been shown to bind the AcrB substrates minocyclin and doxorubicin. The energy conversion from the proton motive force into drug efflux includes proton binding in (and release from) the transmembrane part. The conformational changes observed within a triad of essential, titratable residues (D407/D408/K940) residing in the hydrophobic transmembrane domain appear to be transduced by transmembrane helix 8 and associated with the conformational changes seen in the periplasmic domain. From the asymmetric structure a possible peristaltic pump transport mechanism based on a functional rotation of the AcrB trimer has been postulated. The novel drug transport model combines the alternate access pump mechanism with the rotating site catalysis of F1Fo ATPase as originally postulated by Jardetzky and Boyer, respectively, and suggests a working hypothesis for the transport mechanism of RND transporters in general.