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Title: Conformational restriction shapes the inhibition of a multidrug efflux adaptor protein

Membrane efflux pumps play a major role in bacterial multidrug resistance. The tripartite multidrug efflux pump system fromEscherichia coli, AcrAB-TolC, is a target for inhibition to lessen resistance development and restore antibiotic efficacy, with homologs in other ESKAPE pathogens. Here, we rationalize a mechanism of inhibition against the periplasmic adaptor protein, AcrA, using a combination of hydrogen/deuterium exchange mass spectrometry, cellular efflux assays, and molecular dynamics simulations. We define the structural dynamics of AcrA and find that an inhibitor can inflict long-range stabilisation across all four of its domains, whereas an interacting efflux substrate has minimal effect. Our results support a model where an inhibitor forms a molecular wedge within a cleft between the lipoyl and αβ barrel domains of AcrA, diminishing its conformational transmission of drug-evoked signals from AcrB to TolC. This work provides molecular insights into multidrug adaptor protein function which could be valuable for developing antimicrobial therapeutics.

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Nature Publishing Group
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Journal Name:
Nature Communications
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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  1. Abstract

    Cell-cell interactions play an important role in bacterial antibiotic resistance. Here, we asked whether neighbor proximity is sufficient to generate single-cell variation in antibiotic resistance due to local differences in antibiotic concentrations. To test this, we focused on multidrug efflux pumps because recent studies have revealed that expression of pumps is heterogeneous across populations. Efflux pumps can export antibiotics, leading to elevated resistance relative to cells with low or no pump expression. In this study, we co-cultured cells with and without AcrAB-TolC pump expression and used single-cell time-lapse microscopy to quantify growth rate as a function of a cell’s neighbors. In inhibitory concentrations of chloramphenicol, we found that cells lacking functional efflux pumps (ΔacrB) grow more slowly when they are surrounded by cells with AcrAB-TolC pumps than when surrounded by ΔacrBcells. To help explain our experimental results, we developed an agent-based mathematical model, which demonstrates the impact of neighbors based on efflux efficiency. Our findings hold true for co-cultures ofEscherichia coliwith and without pump expression and also in co-cultures ofE.coliandSalmonella typhumirium. These results show how drug export and local microenvironments play a key role in defining single-cell level antibiotic resistance.

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  2. Bradford, Patricia A. (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT The transcriptional repressor AcrR is the main regulator of the multidrug efflux pump AcrAB-TolC, which plays a major role in antibiotic resistance and cell physiology in Escherichia coli and other Enterobacteriaceae . However, it remains unknown which ligands control the function of AcrR. To address this gap in knowledge, this study tested whether exogenous and/or endogenous molecules identified as potential AcrR ligands regulate the activity of AcrR. Using electrophoretic mobility shift assays (EMSAs) with purified AcrR and the acrAB promoter and in vivo gene expression experiments, we found that AcrR responds to both exogenous molecules and cellular metabolites produced by E. coli . In total, we identified four functional ligands of AcrR, ethidium bromide (EtBr), an exogenous antimicrobial known to be effluxed by the AcrAB-TolC pump and previously shown to bind to AcrR, and three polyamines produced by E. coli , namely, putrescine, cadaverine, and spermidine. We found that EtBr and polyamines bind to AcrR both in vitro and in vivo , which prevents the binding of AcrR to the acrAB promoter and, ultimately, induces the expression of acrAB . Finally, we also found that AcrR contributes to mitigating the toxicity produced by excess polyamines by directly regulating the expression of AcrAB-TolC and two previously unknown AcrR targets, the MdtJI spermidine efflux pump and the putrescine degradation enzyme PuuA. Overall, these findings significantly expand our understanding of the function of AcrR by revealing that this regulator responds to different exogenous and endogenous ligands to regulate the expression of multiple genes involved in efflux and detoxification. IMPORTANCE Multidrug efflux pumps can remove antibiotics and other toxic molecules from cells and are major contributors to antibiotic resistance and bacterial physiology. Therefore, it is essential to better understand their function and regulation. AcrAB-TolC is the main multidrug efflux pump in the Enterobacteriaceae family, and AcrR is its major transcriptional regulator. However, little is known about which ligands control the function of AcrR or which other genes are controlled by this regulator. This study contributes to addressing these gaps in knowledge by showing that (i) the activity of AcrR is controlled by the antimicrobial ethidium bromide and by polyamines produced by E. coli , and (ii) AcrR directly regulates the expression of AcrAB-TolC and genes involved in detoxification and efflux of excess polyamines. These findings significantly advance our understanding of the biological role of AcrR by identifying four ligands that control its function and two novel targets of this regulator. 
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  3. Bradford, Patricia A. (Ed.)

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    Efflux and motility play a major role in bacterial growth, colonization, and survival. InEscherichia coli, the transcriptional repressor AcrR is known to directly repress efflux and was later found to also repress flagellum biosynthesis and motility by Kim et al. (J Microbiol Biotechnol 26:1824–1828, 2016, doi: 10.4014/jmb.1607.07058). However, it remained unknown whether AcrR represses flagellum biosynthesis and motility directly and through which target genes, or indirectly because of altering the amount of efflux. This study reveals that AcrR represses flagellum biosynthesis and motility by directly repressing the expression of theflhDCmaster regulator of flagellum biosynthesis and motility genes, but not the other flagellum genes tested. We also show that the antimicrobial, efflux pump substrate, and AcrR ligand ethidium bromide regulates motility via AcrR. Overall, these findings support a novel model of direct co-regulation of efflux and motility mediated by AcrR in response to stress inE. coli.

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  4. null (Ed.)
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  5. null (Ed.)
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