Proton-dependent multidrug efflux systems

Ian T Paulsen, Melissa H. Brown, Ronald A. Skurray

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1012 Citations (Scopus)


Multidrug efflux systems display the ability to transport a variety of structurally unrelated drugs from a cell and consequently are capable of conferring resistance to a diverse range of chemotherapeutic agents. This review examines multidrug efflux systems which use the proton motive force to drive drug transport. These proteins are likely to operate as multidrug/proton antiporters and have been identified in both prokaryotes and eukaryotes. Such proton-dependent multidrug efflux proteins belong to three distinct families or superfamilies of transport proteins: the major facilitator superfamily (MFS), the small multidrug resistance (SMR) family, and the resistance nodulation/cell division (RND) family. The MFS consists of symporters, antiporters, and uniporters with either 12 or 14 transmembrane- spanning segments (TMS), and we show that within the MFS, three separate families include various multidrug/proton antiport proteins. The SMR family consists of proteins with four TMS, and the multidrug efflux proteins within this family are the smallest known secondary transporters. The RND family consists of 12-TMS transport proteins and includes a number of multidrug efflux proteins with particularly broad substrate specificity. In gram- negative bacteria, some multidrug efflux systems require two auxiliary constituents, which might enable drug transport to occur across both membranes of the cell envelope. These auxiliary constituents belong to the membrane fusion protein and the outer membrane factor families, respectively. This review examines in detail each of the characterized proton-linked multidrug efflux systems. The molecular basis of the broad substrate specificity of these transporters is discussed. The surprisingly wide distribution of multidrug efflux systems and their multiplicity in single organisms, with Escherichia coli, for instance, possessing at least nine proton-dependent multidrug efflux systems with overlapping specificities, is examined. We also discuss whether the normal physiological role of the multidrug efflux systems is to protect the cell from toxic compounds or whether they fulfil primary functions unrelated to drug resistance and only efflux multiple drugs fortuitously or opportunistically.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)575-608
Number of pages34
JournalMicrobiological Reviews
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1996
Externally publishedYes


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