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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 Mar 20;115(12):3060-3065. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1719187115. Epub 2018 Mar 5.

Guanidinium export is the primal function of SMR family transporters.

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Biophysics Program, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109.
Biophysics Program, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109;
Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109.


The small multidrug resistance (SMR) family of membrane proteins is prominent because of its rare dual topology architecture, simplicity, and small size. Its best studied member, EmrE, is an important model system in several fields related to membrane protein biology, from evolution to mechanism. But despite decades of work on these multidrug transporters, the native function of the SMR family has remained a mystery, and many highly similar SMR homologs do not transport drugs at all. Here we establish that representative SMR proteins, selected from each of the major clades in the phylogeny, function as guanidinium ion exporters. Drug-exporting SMRs are all clustered in a single minority clade. Using membrane transport experiments, we show that these guanidinium exporters, which we term Gdx, are very selective for guanidinium and strictly and stoichiometrically couple its export with the import of two protons. These findings draw important mechanistic distinctions with the notably promiscuous and weakly coupled drug exporters like EmrE.


EmrE; SMR; SugE; dual topology; guanidinium

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