The Membrane Composition Defines the Spatial Organization and Function of a Major Acinetobacter baumannii Drug Efflux System

Maoge Zang, Hugo MacDermott-Opeskin, Felise G. Adams, Varsha Naidu, Jack K. Waters, Ashley B. Carey, Alex Ashenden, Kimberley T. McLean, Erin B. Brazel, Jhih-Hang Jiang, Alessandra Panizza, Claudia Trappetti, James C. Paton, Anton Y. Peleg, Ingo Köper, Ian T. Paulsen, Karl A. Hassan, Megan L. O'Mara, Bart A. Eijkelkamp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Acinetobacter baumannii is one of the world's most problematic nosocomial pathogens. The combination of its intrinsic resistance and ability to acquire resistance markers allow this organism to adjust to antibiotic treatment. Despite being the primary barrier against antibiotic stress, our understanding of the A. baumannii membrane composition and its impact on resistance remains limited. In this study, we explored how the incorporation of host-derived polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) is associated with increased antibiotic susceptibility. Functional analyses of primary A. baumannii efflux systems indicated that AdeB-mediated antibiotic resistance was impacted by PUFA treatment. Molecular dynamics simulations of AdeB identified a specific morphological disruption of AdeB when positioned in the PUFA-enriched membrane. Collectively, we have shown that PUFAs can impact antibiotic efficacy via a vital relationship with antibiotic efflux pumps. Furthermore, this work has revealed that A. baumannii's unconditional desire for fatty acids may present a possible weakness in its multidrug resistance capacity. IMPORTANCE Antimicrobial resistance is an emerging global health crisis. Consequently, we have a critical need to prolong our current arsenal of antibiotics, in addition to the development of novel treatment options. Due to their relatively high abundance at the host-pathogen interface, PUFAs and other fatty acid species not commonly synthesized by A. baumannii may be actively acquired by A. baumannii during infection and change the biophysical properties of the membrane beyond that studied in standard laboratory culturing media. Our work illustrates how the membrane phospholipid composition impacts membrane protein function, which includes an important multidrug efflux system in extensively-drug-resistant A. baumannii. This work emphasizes the need to consider including host-derived fatty acids in in vitro analyses of A. baumannii. On a broader scope, this study presents new findings on the potential health benefits of PUFA in individuals at risk of contracting A. baumannii infections or those undergoing antibiotic treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0107021
Number of pages6
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2021


  • antibiotics
  • bacterial
  • host lipids
  • resistance
  • RND efflux

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