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J Biol Chem. 2004 Mar 5;279(10):8957-65. Epub 2003 Dec 19.

Determinants of substrate recognition by the Escherichia coli multidrug transporter MdfA identified on both sides of the membrane.

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Department of Biological Chemistry, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot 76100, Israel.


The Escherichia coli multidrug transporter MdfA contains a membrane-embedded charged residue (Glu-26) that was shown to play an important role in substrate recognition. To identify additional determinants of multidrug recognition we isolated 58 intragenic second-site mutations that restored the function of inactive MdfA E26X mutants. In addition, two single-site mutations that enhanced the activity of wild-type MdfA were identified. Most of the mutations were found in two regions, the cytoplasmic half of transmembrane segments (TMs) 4, 5, and 6 (cluster 1) and the periplasmic half of TM 1 and 2 (cluster 2). The identified residues were mutated to cysteines in the background of a functional cysteine-less MdfA, and substrate protection against alkylation was analyzed. The results support the suggestion that the two clusters are involved in substrate recognition. Using inverted membrane vesicles we observed that a proton electrochemical gradient (Deltamicro(H(+)), inside positive and acidic) enhanced the substrate-protective effect in the cytoplasmic region, whereas it largely reduced this effect in the periplasmic side of MdfA. Therefore, we propose that substrates interact with two sites in MdfA, one in the cytoplasmic leaflet of the membrane and the other in the periplasmic leaflet. Theoretically, these domains could constitute a large part of the multidrug pathway through MdfA.

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