Precious things come in little packages

S. Schuldiner*, D. Granot, S. S. Mordoch, S. Ninio, D. Rotem, M. Soskin, H. Yerushalmi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


The 110-amino acid multidrug transporter from E. coli, EmrE, is a member of the family of MiniTexan or Smr drug transporters. EmrE can transport acriflavine, ethidium bromide, tetraphenylphosphonium (TPP+), benzalkonium and several other drugs with relatively high affinities. EmrE is an H+/drug antiporter, utilizing the proton electrochemical gradient generated across the bacterial cytoplasmic membrane by exchanging two protons with one substrate molecule. The EmrE multidrug transporter is unique in its small size and hydrophobic nature. Hydropathic analysis of the EmrE sequence predicts four α-helical transmembrane segments. This model is experimentally supported by FTIR studies that confirm the high α-helicity of the protein and by high-resolution heteronuclear NMR analysis of the protein structure. The TMS of EmrE are tightly packed in the membrane without any continuous aqueous domain, as was shown by Cysteine scanning experiments. These results suggest the existence of a hydrophobic pathway through which the substrates are translocated. EmrE is functional as a homo-oligomer as suggested by several lines of evidence, including co-reconstitution experiments of wild-type protein with inactive mutants in which negative dominance has been observed. EmrE has only one membrane embedded charged residue, Glu-14, that is conserved in more than fifty homologous proteins and it is a simple model system to study the role of carboxylic residues in ion-coupled transporters. We have used mutagenesis and chemical modification to show that Glu-14 is part of the substrate-binding site. Its role in proton binding and translocation was shown by a study of the effect of pH on ligand binding, uptake, efflux and exchange reactions. We conclude that Glu-14 is an essential part of a binding site, common to substrates and protons. The occupancy of this site is mutually exclusive and provides the basis of the simplest coupling of two fluxes. Because of some of its properties and its size, EmrE provides a unique system to understand mechanisms of substrate recognition and translocation.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)155-162
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Molecular Microbiology and Biotechnology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2001


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