Role of bacterial efflux pumps in biofilm formation

Ilyas Alav, J Mark Sutton, Khondaker Miraz Rahman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

70 Citations (Scopus)


Efflux pumps are widely implicated in antibiotic resistance because they can extrude the majority of clinically relevant antibiotics from within cells to the extracellular environment. However, there is increasing evidence from many studies to suggest that the pumps also play a role in biofilm formation. These studies have involved investigating the effects of efflux pump gene mutagenesis and efflux pump inhibitors on biofilm formation, and measuring the levels of efflux pump gene expression in biofilms. In particular, several key pathogenic species associated with increasing multidrug resistance, such as Acinetobacter baumannii, Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus, have been investigated, whilst other studies have focused on Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium as a model organism and problematic pathogen. Studies have shown that efflux pumps, including AcrAB-TolC of E. coli, MexAB-OprM of P. aeruginosa, AdeFGH of A. baumannii and AcrD of S. enterica, play important roles in biofilm formation. The substrates for such pumps, and whether changes in their efflux activity affect biofilm formation directly or indirectly, remain to be determined. By understanding the roles that efflux pumps play in biofilm formation, novel therapeutic strategies can be developed to inhibit their function, to help disrupt biofilms and improve the treatment of infections. This review will discuss and evaluate the evidence for the roles of efflux pumps in biofilm formation and the potential approaches to overcome the increasing problem of biofilm-based infections.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2003-2020
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy
Issue number8
Early online date28 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018


  • antibiotics
  • biofilms
  • genes


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