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Front Microbiol. 2013 Feb 5;4:7. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2013.00007. eCollection 2013.

RND multidrug efflux pumps: what are they good for?

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Departamento de Biotecnología Microbiana, Centro Nacional de Biotecnología, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas Madrid, Spain.


Multidrug efflux pumps are chromosomally encoded genetic elements capable of mediating resistance to toxic compounds in several life forms. In bacteria, these elements are involved in intrinsic and acquired resistance to antibiotics. Unlike other well-known horizontally acquired antibiotic resistance determinants, genes encoding for multidrug efflux pumps belong to the core of bacterial genomes and thus have evolved over millions of years. The selective pressure stemming from the use of antibiotics to treat bacterial infections is relatively recent in evolutionary terms. Therefore, it is unlikely that these elements have evolved in response to antibiotics. In the last years, several studies have identified numerous functions for efflux pumps that go beyond antibiotic extrusion. In this review we present some examples of these functions that range from bacterial interactions with plant or animal hosts, to the detoxification of metabolic intermediates or the maintenance of cellular homeostasis.


antibiotic resistance; bacterial homeostasis; bacterial virulence; host/bacteria interactions; multidrug efflux pumps; plant/bacteria interactions; quorum sensing

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