Since the MsbA protein used in this study is about 35 percent identical to the P-glycoprotein found in humans, information gained about it should also apply to transporters involved in human drug resistance.
Additionally, MsbA is also the only ABC transporter in E. coli that is essential for the survival of the organism, which makes it a possible therapeutic target.
"The motivation for this work is to understand where the substrate binds and how it moves across so that one can start thinking about designing inhibitors of these molecules," Mchaourab said.
"Whether it's resistance to infectious diseases or resistance to chemotherapy, the goal is to silence these proteins by designing inhibitors that bind tighter than the chemotherapeutic drugs or the antibiotics."
The research was supported by a Vanderbilt Discovery Grant. Other Vanderbilt authors on the paper were Jinhui Dong, a graduate student and first author, and Guangyong Yang, research assistant in the Mchaourab lab.