Multidrug Resistance in Neisseria gonorrhoeae: Identification of Functionally Important Residues in the MtrD Efflux Protein

Mohsen Chitsaz, Lauren Booth, Mitchell T. Blyth, Megan L. O'Mara, Melissa H. Brown

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A key mechanism that Neisseria gonorrhoeae uses to achieve multidrug resistance is the expulsion of structurally different antimicrobials by the MtrD multidrug efflux protein. MtrD resembles the homologous Escherichia coli AcrB efflux protein with several common structural features, including an open cleft containing putative access and deep binding pockets proposed to interact with substrates. A highly discriminating N. gonorrhoeae strain, with the MtrD and NorM multidrug efflux pumps inactivated, was constructed and used to confirm and extend the substrate profile of MtrD to include 14 new compounds. The structural basis of substrate interactions with MtrD was interrogated by a combination of long-timescale molecular dynamics simulations and docking studies together with site-directed mutagenesis of selected residues. Of the MtrD mutants generated, only one (S611A) retained a wild-type (WT) resistance profile, while others (F136A, F176A, I605A, F610A, F612C, and F623C) showed reduced resistance to different antimicrobial compounds. Docking studies of eight MtrD substrates confirmed that many of the mutated residues play important nonspecific roles in binding to these substrates. Long-timescale molecular dynamics simulations of MtrD with its substrate progesterone showed the spontaneous binding of the substrate to the access pocket of the binding cleft and its subsequent penetration into the deep binding pocket, allowing the permeation pathway for a substrate through this important resistance mechanism to be identified. These findings provide a detailed picture of the interaction of MtrD with substrates that can be used as a basis for rational antibiotic and inhibitor design.IMPORTANCE With over 78 million new infections globally each year, gonorrhea remains a frustratingly common infection. Continuous development and spread of antimicrobial-resistant strains of Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the causative agent of gonorrhea, have posed a serious threat to public health. One of the mechanisms in N. gonorrhoeae involved in resistance to multiple drugs is performed by the MtrD multidrug resistance efflux pump. This study demonstrated that the MtrD pump has a broader substrate specificity than previously proposed and identified a cluster of residues important for drug binding and translocation. Additionally, a permeation pathway for the MtrD substrate progesterone actively moving through the protein was determined, revealing key interactions within the putative MtrD drug binding pockets. Identification of functionally important residues and substrate-protein interactions of the MtrD protein is crucial to develop future strategies for the treatment of multidrug-resistant gonorrhea.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere02277-19
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2019

Bibliographical note

© 2019 Chitsaz et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons CC BY license, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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  • drug transport
  • efflux pumps
  • molecular dynamics simulations
  • MtrCDE system
  • multidrug resistance
  • Neisseria gonorrhoeae
  • resistance-nodulation-division
  • Drug transport
  • Efflux pumps
  • Multidrug resistance
  • Molecular dynamics simulations
  • Resistance-nodulation-division


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