Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Yinan Wei


Multidrug efflux pumps are membrane proteins that actively transport foreign objects out of cells. The active efflux of these pumps is a critical self-defense mechanism that enables the survival of bacteria under hostile environments. Efflux pump AcrB is a member of the Resistance-Nodulation-Division (RND) super family. In E. coli, it associates with periplasmic protein AcrA and outer membrane channel TolC to extrude a variety of noxious compounds out of cell from both the cytoplasm and the periplasm. My dissertation research focused on two aspects of this multidrug efflux pump: the oligomerization process during the biogenesis of AcrB and its degradation.

Oligomerization is an important aspect of the structure and function for many proteins and has been the subject of many studies. However, most of such studies focused on soluble proteins. The oligomerization process of membrane proteins, including AcrB, is rarely explored. In chapter 2, the co-assembly of AcrB variants co-expressed in the same cell was used as a tool to investigate the assembly of AcrB trimers during its bio-production. By monitoring the portion of pure trimers containing only one type of subunit and hybrid trimers containing a mixture of the two kinds of subunits, it was found that the oligomerization of membrane proteins is not a random process as the formation of pure trimer is favored.

In chapter 3, the GALLEX system was used to monitor AcrB oligomerization in cells under the native condition. Previously GALLEX has only been used to monitor the oligomerization of small transmembrane proteins. By constructing a series of fusion proteins with different linker length between LexA and AcrB, and optimizing inducer concentration, we finally developed a system that could be used to differentiate AcrB trimers of different oligomerization affinities.

While chapters 2 and 3 focus on the trimerization of AcrB, a critical step of its biogenesis, chapters 4 and 5 focus on its life time and degradation. In chapter 4, the life time of AcrB was measured by incorporating non-natural amino acid azidohomoalanine (AHA) into protein translation. Using this method, it was determined that that the half-life of both AcrA and AcrB in E. coli were six days. The surprisingly long lifetime of these detoxification proteins might represent a strategy by the bacteria to conserve energy and maximize their competition niche for survival in a hostile environment.

In chapter 5, the degradation process of ssra tagged AcrB was investigated. In-vivo degradation test showed that properly inserted AcrB can be digested after addition of ssra-tag to its C-terminus. It was found that cytoplasmic unfoldase-protease complex ClpXP and chaperone SspB are involved in the degradation. In vitro assay is still being optimized to quantitatively analyze the activity of ClpXP in the degradation of AcrB.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

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