SUMMARY: Many plants produce chemicals that kill bacteria or prevent their growth. This article looks at how the plant chemicals affect efflux pumps. The first and second sections explain what efflux pumps are and describes the many roles they play in bacteria cells, everything from quorum sensing, to biofilm formation, to pathogenicity. The third and fourth sections talk about efflux pumps that certain phytochemicals inhibit. Finally, the article ends with a summary of computer simulations used to show how efflux pumps function and how they can be inhibited.
LESSON COMMENTS: The best lesson to take away from this very long and dense article is that many enzymes and proteins have multiple functions in the cell. It’s important to emphasize to students that while textbooks may explain the function of something (organ, protein, neurotransmitter, molecule, etc.) as being simple and straightforward, reality is rarely like that. This article and the concept that many enzymes are multifunctional in an organism can be related to more familiar scientific vocabulary. For example, dopamine is probably a word students have heard and seen, both in class and on internet memes; while the general understanding is that dopamine is responsible for happiness, it also plays other roles in the brain, most of which are still not understood.
Shriram, V., Khare, T., Bhagwat, R., Shukla, R., & Kumar, V. (2018). Inhibiting Bacterial Drug Efflux Pumps via Phyto-Therapeutics to Combat Threatening Antimicrobial Resistance. Frontiers in microbiology, 9, 2990. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2018.02990