EmrE is an Escherichia coli multidrug transporter which confers resistance to a wide variety of toxicants by actively removing them in exchange for hydrogen ions. EmrE is a highly hydrophobic 12 kDa protein which has been purified by taking advantage of its unique solubility in organic solvents. After solubilization and purification, the protein retains its ability to transport as judged from the fact that it can be reconstituted in a functional form. Hydrophobicity analysis of the sequence yielded four putative transmembrane domains of similar sizes. Results from transmission Fourier transform infrared measurements agree remarkably well with this hypothesis and yielded alpha-helical estimates of 78% and 80% for EmrE in CHCl3:MeOH and 1,2-dimyristoyl phosphocholine, respectively. Furthermore, the fact that most of the amide groups in the protein do not undergo amide-proton H/D exchange implies that most (approximately 80%) of the residues are embedded in the bilayer. These observations are only consistent with four transmembrane helices. A domain lined by Cys41 and Cys95 accessible only to substrates such as the organic mercurial 4-(chloromercuri)benzoic acid has been identified. Both residues are asymmetric in their location with respect to the plane of the membrane, Cys95 being closer than Cys41 to the outside face of the membrane. In co-reconstitution experiments of wild-type protein with three different inactive mutants, negative dominance has been observed. This phenomenon suggests that EmrE is functional as a homo-oligomer.

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