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Bacterial silver resistance: molecular biology and uses and misuses of silver compounds.

Fems Microbiology Reviews

pharmacology, Silver Sulfadiazine, metabolism, Silver Compounds, therapeutic use, adverse effects, Silver, Sequence Analysis, DNA, genetics, Salmonella, Plasmids, Models, Genetic, Models, Biological, Genes, Bacterial, Escherichia coli, Drug Resistance, Bacterial

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      Abstract

      Resistance to silver compounds as determined by bacterial plasmids and genes has been defined by molecular genetics. Silver resistance conferred by the Salmonella plasmid pMGH100 involves nine genes in three transcription units. A sensor/responder (SilRS) two-component transcriptional regulatory system governs synthesis of a periplasmic Ag(I)-binding protein (SilE) and two efflux pumps (a P-type ATPase (SilP) plus a three-protein chemiosmotic RND Ag(I)/H+ exchange system (SilCBA)). The same genes were identified on five of 19 additional IncH incompatibility class plasmids but thus far not on other plasmids. Of 70 random enteric isolates from a local hospital, isolates from catheters and other Ag-exposed sites, and total genomes of enteric bacteria, 10 have recognizable sil genes. The centrally located six genes are found and functional in the chromosome of Escherichia coli K-12, and also occur on the genome of E. coli O157:H7. The use of molecular epidemiological tools will establish the range and diversity of such resistance systems in clinical and non-clinical sources. Silver compounds are used widely as effective antimicrobial agents to combat pathogens (bacteria, viruses and eukaryotic microorganisms) in the clinic and for public health hygiene. Silver cations (Ag+) are microcidal at low concentrations and used to treat burns, wounds and ulcers. Ag is used to coat catheters to retard microbial biofilm development. Ag is used in hygiene products including face creams, "alternative medicine" health supplements, supermarket products for washing vegetables, and water filtration cartridges. Ag is generally without adverse effects for humans, and argyria (irreversible discoloration of the skin resulting from subepithelial silver deposits) is rare and mostly of cosmetic concern.

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      Microbial heavy-metal resistance.

      We are just beginning to understand the metabolism of heavy metals and to use their metabolic functions in biotechnology, although heavy metals comprise the major part of the elements in the periodic table. Because they can form complex compounds, some heavy metal ions are essential trace elements, but, essential or not, most heavy metals are toxic at higher concentrations. This review describes the workings of known metal-resistance systems in microorganisms. After an account of the basic principles of homoeostasis for all heavy-metal ions, the transport of the 17 most important (heavy metal) elements is compared.
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        Efflux-mediated heavy metal resistance in prokaryotes.

        What makes a heavy metal resistant bacterium heavy metal resistant? The mechanisms of action, physiological functions, and distribution of metal-exporting proteins are outlined, namely: CBA efflux pumps driven by proteins of the resistance-nodulation-cell division superfamily, P-type ATPases, cation diffusion facilitator and chromate proteins, NreB- and CnrT-like resistance factors. The complement of efflux systems of 63 sequenced prokaryotes was compared with that of the heavy metal resistant bacterium Ralstonia metallidurans. This comparison shows that heavy metal resistance is the result of multiple layers of resistance systems with overlapping substrate specificities, but unique functions. Some of these systems are widespread and serve in the basic defense of the cell against superfluous heavy metals, but some are highly specialized and occur only in a few bacteria. Possession of the latter systems makes a bacterium heavy metal resistant.
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          Crystal structure of bacterial multidrug efflux transporter AcrB.

          AcrB is a major multidrug exporter in Escherichia coli. It cooperates with a membrane fusion protein, AcrA, and an outer membrane channel, TolC. We have determined the crystal structure of AcrB at 3.5 A resolution. Three AcrB protomers are organized as a homotrimer in the shape of a jellyfish. Each protomer is composed of a transmembrane region 50 A thick and a 70 A protruding headpiece. The top of the headpiece opens like a funnel, where TolC might directly dock into AcrB. A pore formed by three alpha-helices connects the funnel with a central cavity located at the bottom of the headpiece. The cavity has three vestibules at the side of the headpiece which lead into the periplasm. In the transmembrane region, each protomer has twelve transmembrane alpha-helices. The structure implies that substrates translocated from the cell interior through the transmembrane region and from the periplasm through the vestibules are collected in the central cavity and then actively transported through the pore into the TolC tunnel.
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