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Mol Microbiol. 1997 Jan;23(2):345-54.

Characterization of MexE-MexF-OprN, a positively regulated multidrug efflux system of Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

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Department of Genetics and Microbiology, Centre Médical Universitaire, Geneva, Switzerland.


Antibiotic-resistant mutants of Pseudomonas aeruginosa were generated using chloramphenicol and ciprofloxacin as selective agents. These mutants displayed a multidrug phenotype and overexpressed an outer membrane protein of 50 kDa, which was shown by Western blot analysis to correspond to OprN. A cosmid clone harbouring the oprN gene was isolated by partial complementation of a mutant deficient in OprM, the outer membrane component of the mexAB-oprM efflux operon. Antibiotic-accumulation studies indicated that OprN was part of an energy-dependent antibiotic-efflux system. Sequencing of a 6180bp fragment from the complementing cosmid revealed the presence of three open reading frames (ORFs), which exhibited amino acid similarity to the components of the mexAB-oprM and mexCD-oprJ efflux operons of P. aeruginosa. The ORFs were designated MexE, MexF and OprN. Mutation of the mexE gene eliminated the multidrug-resistance phenotype in an OprN-overexpressing strain, but did not affect the susceptibility profile of the wild-type strain. Expression of the mexEF-oprN operon was shown to be positively regulated by a protein encoded on a 1.5 kb DNA fragment located upstream of mexE and belonging to the LysR family of transcriptional activators. The presence of a plasmid containing this DNA fragment was sufficient to confer a multidrug phenotype onto the wild-type strain but not onto the mexE mutant. Evidence is provided to show that the mexEF-oprN operon may be involved in the excretion of intermediates for the biosynthesis of pyocyanin, a typical secondary metabolite of P. aeruginosa.

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