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J Mol Biol. 2004 Jul 16;340(4):797-808.

The Escherichia coli multidrug transporter EmrE is a dimer in the detergent-solubilised state.

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MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 2QH, UK.


EmrE is a multidrug transporter that utilises the proton gradient across bacterial cell membranes to pump hydrophobic cationic toxins out of the cell. The structure of EmrE is very unusual, because it is an asymmetric homodimer containing eight alpha-helices, six of which form the substrate-binding chamber and translocation pathway. Despite this structural information, the precise oligomeric order of EmrE in both the detergent-solubilised state and in vivo is unclear, although it must contain an even number of subunits to satisfy substrate-binding data. We have studied the oligomeric state of EmrE, purified in a functional form in dodecylmaltoside, by high-resolution size-exclusion chromatography (hrSEC) and by analytical ultracentrifugation. The data from equilibrium analytical ultracentrifugation were analysed using a measured density increment for the EmrE-lipid-detergent complex, which showed that the purified EmrE was predominantly a dimer. This value was consistent with the apparent mass for the EmrE-lipid-detergent complex (137 kDa) determined by hrSEC. EmrE was purified under different conditions using minimal concentrations of dodecylmaltoside, which would have maintained the structure of any putative higher oligomeric states: this EmrE preparation had an apparent mass of 206 kDa by hrSEC and equilibrium analytical ultracentrifugation showed unequivocally that EmrE was a dimer, although it was associated with a much larger mass of phospholipid. In addition, the effect of the substrate tetraphenylphosphonium on the oligomeric state was also analysed for both preparations of EmrE; velocity analytical ultracentrifugation showed that the substrate had no effect on the oligomeric state. Therefore, in the detergent dodecylmaltoside and under conditions where the protein is fully competent for substrate binding, EmrE is dimeric and there is no evidence from our data to suggest higher oligomeric states. These observations are discussed in relation to the recently published structures of EmrE from two- and three-dimensional crystals.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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