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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2011 Sep;1808(9):2189-96. doi: 10.1016/j.bbamem.2011.05.009. Epub 2011 May 15.

Analysis of AcrB and AcrB/DARPin ligand complexes by LILBID MS.

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Institute of Biochemistry and Cluster of Excellence Frankfurt - Macromolecular Complexes, Goethe-University Frankfurt, Max-von-Laue-Str. 9, D-60438 Frankfurt am Main, Germany.


The AcrA/AcrB/TolC complex is responsible for intrinsic multidrug resistance (MDR) in Escherichia coli. Together with the periplasmic adaptor protein AcrA and the outer membrane channel TolC, the inner membrane component AcrB forms an efflux complex that spans both the inner and outer membrane and bridges the periplasm of the Gram-negative cell. Within the entire tripartite complex, homotrimeric AcrB plays a central role in energy transduction and substrate selection. In vitro selected designed ankyrin repeat proteins (DARPin) that specifically bind to the periplasmic domain of AcrB were shown to ameliorate diffraction resolution of AcrB/DARPin protein co-crystals (G. Sennhauser, P. Amstutz, C. Briand, O. Storchenegger, M.G. Grutter, Drug export pathway of multidrug exporter AcrB revealed by DARPin inhibitors, PLoS Biol 5 (2007) e7). Structural analysis by X-ray crystallography revealed that 2 DARPin molecules were bound to the trimeric AcrB wildtype protein in the crystal, whereas the V612F and G616N AcrB variant crystal structures show 3 DARPin molecules bound to the trimer. These specific stoichiometric differences were analyzed in solution via densitometry after microchannel electrophoresis, analytical ultracentrifugation and via laser-induced liquid bead ion desorption mass spectrometry (LILBID-MS). Using the latter technology, we investigated the gradual disassembly of the AcrB trimer and bound DARPin ligands in dependence on laser intensity in solution. At low laser intensity, the release of the detergent molecule micelle from the AcrB/DARPin complex was observed. By increasing laser intensity, dimeric and monomeric AcrB species with bound DARPin molecules were detected showing the high affinity binding of DARPin to monomeric AcrB species. High laser intensity LILBID MS experiments indicated a spectral shift of the monomeric AcrB peak of 3.1kDa, representing a low molecular weight ligand in all detergent-solubilized AcrB samples and in the AcrB crystal. The identity of this ligand was further investigated using phospholipid analysis of purified AcrB and AcrB variant samples, and indicated the presence of phosphatidylethanolamine and possibly cardiolipin, both constituents of the Escherichia coli membrane.

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