Evolution of RND efflux pumps in the development of a successful pathogen

Varsha Naidu, Amelia Bartczak, Anthony J. Brzoska, Peter Lewis, Bart A. Eijkelkamp, Ian T. Paulsen, Liam D.H. Elbourne, Karl A. Hassan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aims: This study examined the origins and evolution of the AdeABC, AdeFGH and AdeIJK efflux pumps in the Acinetobacter genus, including human and animal pathogens and species from non-clinical environments. 

Methods: Comparative genome analyses were performed using the reference sequences for 70 Acinetobacter species to identify putative orthologs of AdeABC, AdeFGH and AdeIJK and their regulators. Sequence similarities and the genomic locations of coding sequences were correlated with phylogeny to infer modes of evolution. Intraspecies variation was assessed in species of interest using up to 236 complete genome sequences. Mutants overproducing adeIJK in A. baylyi were examined to identify regulators of this system in a non A. baumannii species.

Results: The results indicate that adeIJK has been a stable part of Acinetobacter genomes since the genesis of this genus, whereas adeABC and adeFGH were carried by less than half of the species, but showed some lineage specificity. The organisation and local genetic contexts of adeABC loci were particularly variable to the sub-species level, suggesting frequent recombination. Cognate regulatory systems were almost always found in the genomes of species encoding pumps. Mutations in adeN, which encodes a repressor of adeIJK, were selected by antibiotic exposure in A. baylyi, similar to previous findings in pathogenic lineages. 

Conclusions: The multidrug efflux capacity of clinical Acinetobacter strains stems from accessory and core genetic features. AdeIJK is likely to have ancient core function(s) that have promoted its maintenance, whereas recent antibiotic use may be driving the evolution of the AdeABC pump.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100911
Number of pages9
JournalDrug Resistance Updates
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023


  • Acinetobacter
  • Evolution
  • Membrane transport
  • Multidrug efflux


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